Friday, December 21, 2007


We're going to Oakland for Christmas. Last travelling venture we have planned as a family...I will take my first solo trip, to a conference, in February. I have been preparing by pretending to be a goddess of craft (nobody is very fooled) by:

Making dehydrated fruit tree ornaments (I'll post a picture of them hanging, once they're on the tree in Oakland):

Making wrapping paper out of butcher's paper we had on hand (sadly we were too painted to get a good picture during the making of the paper):

And I dredged up the sewing class I took in high school, senior year, and which I probably went to less than a dozen times, in order to produce these malshaped socks:

The pink socks are made from a wool shawl Greendaddy and I purchased in India, our first trip there, together...the shawl was later ruined in the wash, but turned out to be perfect for weird socks. The blue socks are made out of the leftovers of a sari my mother-in-law's aunt and uncle gave me. The maroon velvet socks are made out of the bottom of a long, victorian looking dress my step-mother gave me a few years back, and that I never wore. I saved the top of the dress, hemmed it, and now it's a shirt I'll wear!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sometimes It's the Huge and Vicious Things That Count

We have worked hard here in Megalopoland to teach Grasshopper how to be a smart, green little baby. She shares, so long as she gets something she wants at the same time somebody else does. Her drinks have never been tained by the taste of old plastic. Her butt has rarely been covered in poo, her hair has never been covered in sodium laurel sulfates. She has eaten cherry tomatoes from our own organic garden, she has learned to love molasses (thanks Amit) and is a pretty good little green baby. We thought we were teaching her to make intelligent, thoughtful choices that would guide her through life. But as we exited the plane in Missoula, and headed towards the stairs we passed this seven or eight foot tall Grizzly:

Grasshopper saw it, ran towards it full tilt, squealing, "Doggy, doggy, doggy!" and then hugged the bear's giant glass cage.

Thus proving that sometimes it isn't the little things that count. Sometimes it's the very, very, big, and vicious things.

Sadly, or perhaps luckily with Grasshopper's track record, we didn't see a live bear or moose, though we saw tracks. We saw Rock Creek freezing over, and deer, and this crazy bird that only comes to Rock Creek in the winter. It dives into the freezing water and digs for crazy, cold-loving insects. In the photo above Grasshopper is proving that so long as you have a daddy's chest nearby, it is possible to take a snooze sub-zero land.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Good Gifting

This is newly updated for 2007. A couple caveats: I welcome suggestions, but this is not a site to advertise stores. I mention stores I've been to or shop at, but the goal here isn't to amass a long list of deserving stores. Mostly it's a list of 'generes' of giving with examples I particularly like. So feel free to leave info about your store in the comments, but don't be offended if I never ad it. There are millions of organic clothing stores, for example...I note this, and suggest people google them rather than this list being over-wrought.

I would like creative, unusual, green ideas...


In my green gift guide, below, I’ve sort of categorized the sorts of gift genres I like. Sometimes I construct a green gift; sometimes I get an item that I would otherwise label hoary from a local shop or a used store and feel better about it; sometimes I get a fairly traded gift from the web. Generally This list will grow with time, with your suggestions, etc. And please do make suggestions.

Basically, the local version of any of the following is better than the internet-purchased version in terms of supporting local businesses. Local meaning a store owned by an individual in your community--probably not a corporation-- or a non-profit organization in your community. If the choice is from Amazon or Target, I don’t see a huge difference, especially if you’re sending it to an Auntie in Argentina or something.
1) Crafts, Foods, Clothes from Locally Owned Fair Trade Shops.
Most major cities have a few. In Houston we have an ever growing number, though I most often frequent: Corazon, Taft Street Coffee, and Ten Thousand Villages (which is a chain, but a worthy one…). Hey, see what shops sell fair trade products in your part of the states (there’s not a world-wide listing, yet…but Google…)
2) Resale or antique shops. I am not a pro at Houston resale. Mostly, I go to a resale children’s shop called Young and Restless. In Montrose I go to Bluebird Circle, but I know this city abounds with good resale I don't know about. I will quote a little birdie's comment on adult resale rather than paraphrase: "Blue Bird on W Alabama is the granddaddy of resale - good selection of furniture and so forth and they sort the clothes by size. Catholic Charities on Lovett and the Junior League shop in the Heights also sort by size, but the Junior League store is best for the size fours of the world. Salvation Army on Washington and Goodwill on the North Freeway are the largest of their brethern."
3) Gifty Foods or Crafts from Farmers Markets Etc. We go to Central City Co-Op and they sell little edible items. Friends like Bayou City Farmer’s Market and Mid-Town Farmer’s Market. To find other Texas or US markets, go to Local Harvest.
4) Support A Local Charity instead of a Mega-One In Your Loved One’s Name. Too many to mention…
6) Gift certificates to local venues…restaurants, your favorite baby shop, a masseuse, an art class, a composting class, a cooking class, a writing class
7) Memberships to a local museum…children’s, mfa, natural science, zoo. 
8) Pass to a National Park in your area…go here
9) Shops of all Ilks. Childrens’, bookstores, bikes, hardware stores, antique shops. Might cost a little extra, but hey, no shipping and handling and the monetary and environmental costs it incurs.

All sorts of charities are making it very easy for you to give in another person’s honor. Most send the person something representative of your purchase, be it a certificate, a photo, a turtle tracking system, or the National Green Pages.
1) Giving That Benefits People: Give a cow to a family in a loved one’s name via Heifer International ... conservatives in the family?  They're pro-Heifer, from what I've gleaned in my own family.  You can all feel good about a gift from there.  Or help a rural community develop health or social services (or a number of other options) via Seva Foundation, Oxfam.  
2) Giving That Benefits Social Justice. Purchasing gift memberships for your loved ones to Oxfam, CoOp America, Pacifica, whatever organization it is you think they’d appreciate membership to.
3) Giving That Promotes the Environment. Trees for Life.
4) Giving That Promotes Conservation. Nature Conservancy gifts to save forests and reefs
5) Giving To Benefit Animals: Adopt and track a sea turtle throughout the year at, Farm Sanctuary
6) There are numerous websites that offer much longer lists of the many different ways you can give these sorts of gifts. The ones above caught my eye for various reasons. But here are three good sites to goto if none of the ones I’ve offered tip your kettles:, NoMoreSocks (defunct!), Oxfam, National Resources Defense Council
7) Echoage is a company that you ask guests to give $20 to for a gift (birthday is the idea on the site) and half that money goes to buying one gift for the child, the other goes to the cause of the child & parents' choice.

There are millions of sites, so I won’t go into detail. But I like the ideas over at NoMoreSocks.
1) Scientific Toys
2) Board Games
3) Craft Items
4) Costumes, puppets…
5) Music
6) Photo related I have used Zazzle a couple of years to make mugs, aprons, t-shirts that make grandparents happy. Zazzle has a lot more options than similar sites for standard items. I am newly impressed with the sites Moo for unusual photo gifting options and the site QOOP because it makes nice photo books.

I forgot this on my original lists, and it has been a longtime favorite gift of mine: sending seedlings or windowbox gardening kits to friends throughout the country. Last year I sent tomato plants to several relatives via -- though they messed up two orders, they resent one and credited me money for the other, and I had a good experience. Windowbox promotes gardening for people w/o the space, which I think is a fabulous idea. Still, this year, my gifts will come via Seeds of Change because they sell organic plants and work hard at preserving biodiversity. You can buy a truffle tree for somebody to reap the benefits of, rent vines you get the bottles of wine from...

Basically, you can get the green version of about anything, but it costs…Also, check to make sure item is really green…ie, many yoga mats from green companies are made out of gassing plastics. Many green things aren’t “fair trade” and “vice-versa.” I’m happy when I can get both (and can buy them locally!)…but it doesn’t always happen. I’d shop around for most any of these items…you CAN find good deals if you look hard enough
1) Clothes: Buying new (or used!), organic, worker friendly, fairly traded, and/or vegan clothes or wallets, bags, or shoes.
2) Crafts: Buying fairly traded crafts from around the world for your loved ones try Global Exchange, Bright Hope, Ten Thousand Villages, World of Good
3) Food Items: AKA fairly traded coffee, teas, chocolates…Global Exchange, CafĂ© Campesino, Shaman Chocolates, Glee Gum
4) Personal Care Items: Soaps, salts,at stores like Our Green House.
5) Toys: Wood, cotton, pvc-free…Kid Bean, Toys from the Heart, Peapods
Portals to find the stores that sell these goods: Co-Op America, Eco Mall, Global Exchange
6) Jewelry: Buy recycled gold etc from
7) Movies: Buy movies that support women filmmakers at
8) Health equipment. Healthy yoga mats at stores like Natural Fitness.

1) The Green Guide via Grist
2) Co-Op America’s Green Pages
3) Environmental Defense
4) Tree hugger

1) Books are good to give used, as they’re not particularly environmentally friendly. And it goes against the idea of local, but these days, it’s pretty easy to get a new-looking used book online. Or go the other way and get a funky old edition of a book, or an illustrated old edition…
2) Jewelry. Want to avoid supporting icky work practices in the mining industry & yet still get your sweetie some kind of bling? Antique jewelry is a good choice…
3) Baby/Kid Things. You can get good wooden baby toys and avoid those nasty plastic chemicals. Or a snowflake dress some baby only wore once. Or black patent leather shoes a baby wore twice. Or cool costumes for babies, kids, toddlers…
4) Furniture. Buy a crappy old table and refinish it. Or if you’ve got the dough, buy a refinished table.
5) Wrapping Paper. I’m ahead of myself here, but as long as you’re out, used stores (and your attic and about everywhere you look) is full of papers or cloth that make inexpensive, cool looking, distinctive wrappings.
6) Doo-dads. You know who you’re shopping for better than I do…go hunting!

1) Bake. Deliver the goods to friends in lieu of purchased gifts
2) Books. Construct them yourself, write a poem or a story, or uses photos…or both…
3) Ornaments, picture frames, magnets. Go to a craft store (or a used store) find materials, and concoct them.
4) Calendars, cds, videos. Use the computer to make calendars or cds or a video
4) Compose. Songs, poems, stories, plays, portraits, dances…
5) Work. Clean out somebody’s garage, cupboards, paint their porch, weed their garden…
6) Sculpt. With clay or snow or granite.
7) Cross pollinate these and other ideas you have…
8) Puppets. Make puppets for the kids in your life…

A few trashy gifts that are not fair-trade, environmentally friendly, local, organic, or educational always slip into my giving. I don’t stress out too much, because I go out of my way to keep their numbers down. Last year I knew somebody who needed a talking Jackie Kennedy doll, so I will look locally and/or used…but I’m not holding my breath.
1) One way around this is to buy your gifts through sites like, which is a portal you enter before shopping at regular places like Amazon or the Gap...but if you do enter these places through the HEARTof hurdel 75% of your purchase money goes to a charity of your choice. Similar organizations that give less money -- 35% -- are or

1) Surprise the family with an outing to some outdoor place on your gift exchange day…an orchard, a sledding hill, a river, a park…bring snacks

***I have definitely not included all there is out there. This is a list that will grow at my pace, not the pace of the green gifting industry. If I forgot one of your favorites, or if you have a good idea about any of all this, please let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


My post on Grasshopper's diet drew concern about Quorn, a laboratory produced mold that makes very tasty faux chicken, chicken nuggets, and meatballs. It is billed as akin to mushroom fungus, but is more like Miso, Tempeh, or certain cheeses that use fungus/molds to grow and/or ferment into themselves. The main concern over Quorn seems to be that a number of people in the US and Britain are very allergic to this mycoprotein. Lucky for everybody in our family, Grasshopper has no known allergies. But even though I had read about how Quorn is laboratory produced and not been bothered about it before, all the controversy Quorn sparked on the Raising a Vegetarian Baby post set me off thinking (that does happen, on occasion).

The highly processed nature of the product, and my desire to have this short cut, not to give up on a fast fix, reminds me about the troubles I have always had with plain vegetarianism or veganism: people use the words as synonyms for healthy eating, or for diets, but in many cases, I've known many (not all) vegetarians and vegans to be terrible, trashy eaters who happen not to eat meat products. They are more sucre-grainarians. In college the first move many of my vegetarian friends made was to find which Hostess products they could still stash away in some secret hiding place in their dorm rooms.

A major portion of the reason we eat 'green'...because vegetarian is vague and that we want to avoid eating processed junk, we want to put in foods low on the food chain high on our diet...which, aside from helping out our feathered and/or four footed friends, allows us to better avoid bioaccumulation of toxins etc. Part of doing this is at least trying to know what it is that makes it onto our plate.

Of course, like the last post I put up implies, it's very hard to know what's in or on our food. Raw almonds, for example, are no longer "raw" in the way the raw food eaters define raw. In being pasteurized things happen to the almonds. Similarly, I know that a lot happens to the dairy products my family eats before we eat them, even when I buy organic, and I'm not sure what exactly. I don't make all our own pasta or bread... I don't know how oil is pressed out of olives...I accept I am ignorant about the paths a lot of the food I eat followed to get to me.

Still, I believe in digging your heels in, wherever you are, and refusing to slide any further down whatever slippery slope you're navigating. I don't over-worry about not knowing what's in everything...but I just make sure that the majority of what I cook or snack on is whole grains, legumes, greens, fruity, nuts, seeds, berries, and vegetables. Dairy, tofu, processed grains, and sauces entering our diet I monitor in amount and by the limited standards that do exist -- organic, dye-free, non-GMO, etc..

We have a neighbor child being raised vegan, though both her parents eat meat. Her parents we barely see, and they seem nice, are great to Grasshopper, and their girl is a great kid. But her diet seems to consist of fake cheese, soy milk, and grains.

It seems a good example to think about how hard it is leaving meat and dairy. All these McVegan products exist because people miss what they had, they are nostalgic for what they grew up with. Our neighbors eat meat and believe, maybe, it is better not to, and maybe they themselves just can't give it up and want to somehow shield their daughter from temptation: but the way they approach the issue is to literally replace meat. It seems well-intentioned, but dangerously McVegan.

Which brings me back to Quorn, a product I originally purchased because I get sick of soy products, and because it's very easy for me to make high-protien faux-chicken nuggets at lunch or when I'm pressed for time. I don't always have time to make my own vegi-burgers or soy nuggets...which are easy enough: freeze tofu, thaw it, cut it into little squres, season breadcrumbs and batter, then bake or fry the tofu. But just like I used to turn my nose up at "real" macaroni and cheese, Grasshopper is about 1/3 more likely to eat the Quorn than she is mamma's nuggets. (Only recently has Grasshopper decided she likes peanut butter and quesadillas, which alleviates some lunch time pressure... )

Now when I think of Quorn I get some picture of a vat of mold in my head. So I don't buy them so much...though on occasion, I will. This whole conundrum has made me think about processed foods and their relationship to vegetarianism and veganism. I mean, there are giant markets for weirdly constructed McVegan foods, located in the McVegan section of the grocery, of course: Gimmie Lean, Tofurkey, Nayonaise, Sheese cheese, Stonewall's Jerquee, Tofutti sour cream. My favorite processed fake stuff is Notdogs. Other fake options I have let enter our diet: some soy milk, Tofutti Cream Cheese and Nayonaise. We eat tofu and sometimes Seitan.

It's funny I would never feed my child packaged Noodle-Roni -- I don't even like to feed her Annie's macaroni and cheese -- but I wouldn't blink if she ate Tofutti. And I have no idea what that is. I don't know what the fake turkey lunchmeat we used to eat on occasion is. Like when I ate beef and knew it was cow and some additives, I know Tofutti is tofu and something.

Okay, not exactly like that. I'm guessing the makers of Tofutti are more thoughtful than the beef industry. But when I'm getting at is my awareness of the need for fast options, and the ease of relying on processed foods, even when eating a diet that most people think is healthy. I'm getting at how it all unsettles me, how McVeganism or McVegetarianism are realities as potentially dangerous as McDonald's. Even when I knew Quorn was mold, for example, I was thinking: but it's so good! so tasty! it can't be that bad, even though I don't have a clue what's really in it.

Quorn is a shortcut. Tofu nuggets are easy to make, but easy still takes time. It's upsetting when the shortcuts we find to enable ourselves to spend time doing things other than cooking turn out to bring us to places on the part of the food chain located in the Twilight Zone.

I guess the solution to this problem is the same as always: everything, especially the more disturbing things, in moderation. Short cuts in moderation.

Monday, December 03, 2007

This Seems Important: Take Action by Dec 3

Our vegetable co-op, Central City Co-op, sent this email over the weekend and I missed it.  I don't believe I've ever posted a take action email/post before, but we eat a lot of greens around here.

*     *     *    *     *

First email I received:

The US Department of Agriculture/USDA plans to irradiate (which = pasteurize) ALL raw greens  -- including organic. They have proposed to have federal regulations mandating the 'pasteurization' of all greens. The FDA has started using the word 'pasteurize' as a euphemism for irridiation. For example, almonds are being "pasturized" in California, and the most common method for treating them is with a known carcinogenic, banned rocket fuel. 

The plan to pasteurize the vegetables was revealed recently, and the FDA is only allowing comments until Monday, Dec. 3. (In the past, the FDA had comment periods of several weeks or even months.

Second, more detailed email I received:

Protect Fresh Leafy Greens and Family Farms
Federal Regulations Would Harm Sustainable Farmers and Biodiversity

We need your help in another battle to stop the slippery slope toward a sterilized and industrialized food system that threatens biodiversity and the very existence of family-scale farms that grow food in a safe, healthy, and environmentally sustainable way.

In response to the E. coli 0157 outbreaks last year in bagged spinach, the USDA is considering a change in the federal regulations that could potentially require growers of all fresh leafy green vegetables to follow specified guidelines in the fields and during post-harvest handling. The federal rules would be similar to the California guidelines that were set by large-scale operations after the outbreaks. The guidelines include growing practices that discourage biodiversity and sustainable/organic farming practices, deplete soil fertility, and create “sterile” fields—methods that have not been scientifically proven to actually reduce E. coli 0157 bacteria but are certain to reduce biodiversity, harm wildlife, and burden family-scale farms.

Small- and medium-scale farmers would bear the greatest financial and logistical burden of such specified guidelines. For example, if the rules require testing for pathogens at every harvest—as they currently do in California—then large-scale farms that grow one type of crop and harvest only one to three times per season would pay much less than smaller and more diverse farms that continually harvest many types of vegetables. If regulations dictate a single set of growing practices and food safety measures, which are appropriate for large-scale “factory farms” but not for diverse family farms, we risk losing the very farms that grow leafy greens in a healthy and sustainable way. A one-size-fits-all regulation will not work!

The rules threaten biodiversity and environmental sustainability in several ways. Farmers would be encouraged to eliminate wildlife and any vegetation that may provide habitat for wildlife. The rules also discourage the development of microbial life in the soil. These methods have not been shown to reduce the risk of harmful bacterial contamination. In fact, sustainable farming methods that promote microbial life in soil have shown to reduce E. coli 0157 because it has to compete with other microbes and is therefore less likely to thrive. However, the aim of these rules seems to be for sterile fields that support no forms of life, except for the leafy greens.

We must make our voices heard, telling the USDA that we do not support federal rules that would put a great financial and logistical burden on family-scale farmers, discourage environmentally healthy ways of farming, and harm wildlife.

Taking action is easy, but with a December 3 deadline for submitting comments to the USDA, we need your help today. Please tell the USDA that food safety is an important concern, but that mandating measures with no scientific basis that will put small farmers out of business, and harm wildlife, is not the way to go.


Please help insure our right to purchase buy raw greens.

Here are the procedures for posting a public comment:

1) Submit online.  Either

Submit via this website:

OR submit directly:

Go to
In the middle of the screen, you will see "Search Documents."  In Step 1, choose "Documents with an open comments period"
In Step 2, choose "Department of Agriculture"
In Step 3, choose "PROPOSED RULES"
In Step 4, choose "Docket ID" and then type in "AMS- FV-07-0090"
Hit "Submit."
Next, you will see a column titled "Comments, add/due by." Click on the tiny tan dialogue icon, and you are now ready to submit your information and your comment.

2) Fax in your response: (202) 720-8938.

Please take action on this.  Follow the link to read more and take action at the FDA Comment Line

Even more important, get to know your Senators and Representatives and call them; their willingness to address issues depends on how many constituents call them to complain or voice their support.

It only takes 5 minutes to call the toll-free Congressional switchboard numbers when an important issue like this comes up, and they are listening.

The FDA will listen to the public and heed their wishes IF enough people call/contact them.
Even more important, voice your concerns Monday to the Senators and Represenatives who represent you. Let them know you want the agri-business corporations to take responsibility and use more hygienic handling practices and more prudent shipping methods.

Reach Your representatives:





Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Month in Pictures

So we're heading to Montana, tomorrow, to spend time with my aunt and uncle in their cabin just outside Missoula.  (I know, I know: if we bought carbon offsets, this year, somebody would be very rich and we would be very poor.) I thought before I get a store of a whole new set of photos, I'd do a little photoblogging to make up for the long lapse of no posting:

After Greendaddy's parents left...and we didn't get any photos when they were here...we had a few regular days.  Greendaddy and Grasshopper tooled around in the cool bike seat my friend Jbrd gave us.


And Greendaddy experimented with taking over my old job (or my boob's old job) of putting Grasshopper to sleep...


...then he perfected it.


After a couple weeks of moseying and snoozing, we hopped on the plane with our irate toddler and went to Virginia, where Grasshopper got to bond with her cousins Katydid (who is five) and Cricket (a little older than one).  This was taken right before we went to a Pumpkin Patch:


This is the picture that shows how Grasshopper was the one little cousin who really needed a nap, but refused to take one:


At the farm with the Pumpkin Patch we spent about twenty minutes lounging in this pile of corn. Greendaddy wanted to make his own pile of corn, right in the back yard, because it was so comfortable and refreshing.  Really, on both accounts.  This is Grasshopper:


And Cricket:


And the whole bunch of us:


When we got back home, my mom came to visit, and it was Halloween.  Grasshopper appears here as a Lion.  She's wearing her friend Willy's costume, homemade by his grandmother the year before.  She won $10 at WholeFoods later on, in the costume contest my mother quickly discovered and entered her into:


And she was also either a Boohbah or Rodney Dangerfield:


I didn't think she knew how to open up candy by herself 
since we never give her any candybars.   But my baby is no fool.


Here's my mom, Greendaddy, and Grasshopper -- the only proof mom was here, as I keep aiming the camera at the baby and my husband, and nobody else.  Got to get better at that:


Mom took us to the Renaissance festival.

Picture 122

Grasshopper was sitting on a giant, fabulous cement pig that my mother didn't think was nearly as intersting as we are:

Picture 132

We went to Galveston with my mom, but we went too late to get in the water.  The weekend after she left, though, we went to Surfside and it was still warm enough to get in the water.  Two weekends ago.


Montana, where I'm going at five a.m. tomorrow, will be tough medicine for this subtropical family, but I hear we get to go cross country skiing...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Iron Poo and Potty Terrors

The quickest version of the story (and I need quick since we're so far behind...) is that the iron supplements the doctors have been insiting we give Grasshopper made her poo do it's best to turn into actual hunks of iron. The poo got to be so hard it hurt her to poo, and in a perfect world, we would have figured this out instantly and put her onto a stool softener (Miralax, which is what my sister-in-law, who is a pediatrician, recommended.)

What happened is that she began despising her potty -- at first she wouldn't sit down for longer than five seconds, and with time, the sight of it made her howl. We thought she had a urinary tract infection, and we went to the doctor. Of course, she wasn't up to peeing in a bottle, and so the nurses in the office tried to catheterize our already nearly-demented-by-anger baby. The moment they stuck the catheter tube in she managed to send a stream of urine directly into the nurse's hair, and to poo on the table. Oh so embarassing for mommy and daddy and nurse, mildly ameliorating for baby.

Because the world works this way, we were at the night clinic because the next evening -we were scheduled to get on a flight to Virginia. Greendaddy was due to be a groomsman in a wedding that weekend, and we had scheduled a few extra days around that trip so that we could also spend quality time with Greendaddy's brother and his family. We ended up at the night clinic when we realized that Grasshopeer wasn't being suddenly moody about the potty, and that there was a real problem. Unfortunatley, the doctor on duty had enough time to tell us he didn't think it was a UTI, but not enough time to help us figure out what was really at issue.

Since Greendaddy's brother M. and sister-in-law V. are both doctors -- she is a pediatrician, even -- we figured we'd get on the plane, despite the fact that the cream the doctor had given us hadn't helped Grasshopper feel a smidgeon better. Our trip to Virginia was tear-filled and painful for Grasshopper, Greendaddy and I were stressed and ready to strangle each other because of it, and our family was gifted the pleasure of five days of ailing, suffering two-year-old screams and matching edgy parents. After a few days there, however, V. realized that though Grasshopper was peeing regularly -- though unhappily -- she had stopped pooing altogether, and we went out and bought the MiraLax.

By the time we got home, Grasshopper was regular again. But she didn't lose her fear of the potty. She still refused to sit on it.

You have to understand that this was the first time in her life that she ever really regularly used diapers. We caught her poo and pee in a bucket from the time she was two weeks old, and as I've written before, there were less than a dozen missed poos in the last year -- almost none since she was old enough to walk to the potty and sit down on it.

In Virginia, we actually used paper diapers for the first time, because sometime in August we had sold most of her diapers and started putting her in training pants. The trainers were too thin to sustain all the peeing and pooing she was up to. Grasshoppre soiled diapers the whole weekend.

When we got back to Houston, though, we had enough spare, old diapers to switch her back over to cloth -- a move she protested, by the way. She was smitten with the absorbent nature of the paper diapers, which made it easy for her to pee and not be uncomfortable. So anybody wondering if cloth diapers really help with regular potty training: Grasshopper's experience suggests a resounding yes.

Of course, even though the cloth diapers were less comfortable when wet, she continued peeing in them for five or six days. In the end, I bribed her: I gave her dark chocolate chips when she sat on the potty, just two or three times, one day, which was enough for her to realize the potty was no longer trying to punish her. She started peeing again. But it took maybe a whole week and a half for her to start pooing in it.

Have I ever mentioned that I haven't carried diaper wipes with me, ever, because we ECd. If she pooed in her diapers at home, during this time, she'd squat and poo, and I'd immediately change her diaper with little mess. But a couple times during this period she pooed in her diaper while we were out -- and the poo got all over her butt, which, again, I have never dealt with with before (not since I babysat). I'd be in the middle of a store and gasp, "Oh my God! My baby just pooed her pants!" and then I'd have to watch people turn from me, to my nearly-two-year old, and then back to me again with this look: Duh, Mommy. What's your problem?

The internet suggested that potty regression is normal, and that it lasts two months. A thought that totally freaked me out, which in turn, made me feel ashamed: ECing isn't about forcing the baby to poo in a potty -- it's about allowing them to do what comes naturally. But since pooing in the potty was so normal for so long, I found it difficult to just be okay with the poo in the diapers. I never raised my voice or got mad at Grasshopper, but I was annoyed, and she knew that.

All this happened in a span of about two and half weeks. She's back to her normal self now, thank God, but we have to figure out a new way to give her Iron. She's not fond of Black Strap Molasses, and though I'm grateful to the MiraLax stool softener, I'm not about to make it part of her regular diet. Any helpful hints will be greatly appreciated.

(PS: Photos from our visit to Virginia -- and actual highlights of the visit -- to follow)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vegetarianism and Candy

We're gearing into getting back to the blog.  There is just SO MUCH to write about that the thought of starting again is obliterating.  But today at the hospital we were compiling the tri-yearly newsletter and I came across these poems, perhaps the funniest in the world.  

by Micah, 9 years old

A chili dog is a dog.
Not meat.
So I eat that.
No hamburgers.
I'll eat a little bit of fried chicken.
I like sausage.
I hate bacon.
No pork at all.
I like ham. Not roast beef.
I stopped eating meat.
I don't eat meat at all.
But hot dogs, ham, and sausage.
Tacos ain't meat.

I get my special powers
by being a vegetarian.

Nine Ways of Looking at Candy

I like to give away my candy
because I'm a giver.
Give! Give! Give!
That's all I do.
Don't ask why.

Just eat it.
You just better be happy.
I got this candy for you
because I rode on an ambulance last night.

The reason I don't eat candy
or chips or stuff like that
is that it gets stuck in your teeth.
The more you eat
the more it gets stuck.

On Halloween my cousin Tracie
laid all my candy on the table
and took all the Whoppers.
My dad like's Robin's eggs.
He likes Easter egg candy.

My mom buys all the candy
and I stay home
watching television.

If you eat too much licorice
you're going to grow tall.
Not red, but tall.
Tall with a red head.
If you eat too much chocolate
you turn into a blueberry.

I'll tell you who likes candy:
He stole some from Armani.
A long time ago.
It's true.

I don't care
who eats it.

a mixing of
chocolate and fruit
a mixing of
vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry

I'm going to pass the candy

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What blog?

October has been ghoulish, schedule wise -- a good thing for us, as we're having a bit of fun, but not so good for our lives in blogville.  We had Grasshopper's Dada and Dadi visiting, threw a barbeque for our friend Martha, will go to DC this weekend for GreenDaddy's friend Mike's wedding, and then Grasshopper's Grandma from Myton will arrive.  And, oh, yeah, we're trying to get work done, as well.

So we're not giving up on the blog...but say adieu until the end of the month, I'm guessing.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Wanted: Daddy Friendly Playgroups

I received an email today from someone I don't know. A common friend referred her to me. Here is what it says:

Hi! You don't know me but I'm a student at UH working w/ Dr. B- on a thesis. I mentioned to her that I had a pair of friends doing the stay-at-home-dad thing and they were having a ridiculous time finding a playgroup for their youngest (about 16 mos.) that would allow Dad to bring her instead of Mom. Dr. B- recommended you as the man to ask about such matters. If you do have any leads on father friendly playgroups in the Houston or Baytown area, it would be a great help.

First, does anyone know of father-friendly playgroups around Houston?

Also, I would like to congratulate those fathers for taking a lead role in the care of their children. Staying at home is a big risk for any parent because it can lead to a lifetime of difficulty. Once you have a gap in your resume, it will always be there. The journal I work for, Feminist Economics, will be publishing a study next year that shows how caring for children lowers women's income over their lifetimes. I hope that these fathers will not face the same employment difficulties that mothers have. Perhaps with men taking time off, or going part-time like me, the gender norms that create the conditions for income gaps will change.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Raising a Healthy Vegetarian Baby or Toddler

Here's to the illustrious, healthy vegetarian baby. Reading the newspapers, even talking to doctors, and certainly talking to my parents you might worry it's as rare as the three toed astronaut. But vegetarians have been raising healthy babies for centuries, throughout the world. But how to do it in Houston?

The major caveat in raising a healthy, happy, vegetarian baby is that you have to expand the kind of items you put on your grocery list. You need to start buying the exotic goods staring out at you from the bulk bins in your health food store or co-op of choice. The other major caveat is that you have to learn how to cook. No more sandwiches for both of your two meals a day, no more a slice of pizza here and some french fries there. If you can manage both these tasks, you can raise your vegetarian baby just fine.

Grasshopper, our resident vegetarian baby, usually has six or seven meals a day: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, snack, dinner, snack. She eats so frequently because she doesn't always finish a meal, and that's okay. If she eats three bites of lunch, I operate under the assumption that that old demon hunger will compel her to munch more heavily during her later snacks. (GreenDaddy's mom -- Grasshopper's Dadi -- visited this weekend and told me she'd read an article suggesting that part of the obesity epidemic in the US is linked to people forcing their children to eat every last scrap on the plate...that is, to eat when they're not hungry. I love studies that support my habits!)

The best thing about Grasshopper's frequent snacking, I think, is that it makes it much easier for me to ensure she's eating from the Green Parenting Food Circle (not a triangle because somedays she gets more of one than the other): protien, fruit, grains, water, dairy & vegetables daily between snacks and meals. I should also mention that she still breastfeeds once a day, though she's forgetting to ask everyday now.

With all this in mind, I thought I'd put out this list of foods that Grasshopper is inordinatley fond of, and/or, doesn't know she eats but does regularly. I'm certain I've forgotten or don't know about other great ideas, and I'd love any new ideas to widen our range.

Grasshopper's Favorite Vegan Foods:

Quorn. It’s a brand of meat-aping protein consisting primarily of fungus n’whey, you find it in the frozen food, next to the Boc-blech Burgers. I like giving it to Grasshopper because I don’t want to overload her with soy. It comes in fake chicken & fake meatball forms. Whole Foods has it on sale once a month, usually, and I stock up, or I can’t afford it.

Veggie/Bean/Tofu Burgers. We make them at home, usually. None of us like the store bought much.

Tofu. What can’t you do with tofu? It goes into homemade veggie burgers, in Chinese food. While I’m not such a huge fan of tofu blocks in food, Grasshopper is. In a pinch, I buy the pre-made teriyaki tofu from the Whole Foods salad bar.

Frozen edamame and lima beans. I microwave them in water for about 45 seconds. A favorite snack of MaGreen and Grasshopper alike.

All the other beans. Since I got my pressure cooker in gear I love buying all sorts of crazy looking beans at Whole Foods. Turtles, Aztecs, Black Beans, Navy, Kidney. Usually I cook these with greens.

Lentils & Dahls GreenDaddy has a favorite traditional Gujurati dahl, and I have a few favorites I make. Grasshopper munches them up.

Rice. A quarter of our meals are served over brown or white Basmati. This was one of the baby's first favorites.

Hot Cereals. I alternate between oat grout, seven grain, and plain old oatmeal from the bulk bins.

Rainbow Light NutriStart Multivitamin Powder. Grasshopper needs Iron supplements and the iron drops the doctor prescribed taste exactly like you’re eating a pole in winter: metallic and you can’t unstick the flavor from your tongue for hours. Rainbow Lite is a brand my friend Kayte turned me onto when I was looking for prenatal vitamins. They’re free of “artificial colors, flavors, sweetners, preservatives and other objectionable additives often found in vitamin products.” Since they don’t have any goodies in them they taste like blech, which is why I buy the powder packets. I put them in her cereal.

Quinoa & Amarynth. Super protein filled seed-grains of the Aztecs. I add them rice whenever I cook it, put a little in her seven grain cereal in the morning.

Noodles. Who doesn’t like a good noodle every now and then?

Sunflower & pumpkin seeds. Sometimes I grind them and put them in food, sometimes I just put them in food, sometimes we just snack on them.

Nuts. Walnuts, peanuts, cashews. No allergies in this house, thankfully. She’s just learned how to chew them well enough to snack on.

Peanut butter. Grasshopper likes it on slices of apples.

Dried, unsweetened cranberries we always have on hand. And I also usually have another sort of dried unsweetened fruit, pineapple if it’s available, or mango.

Veggies. Broccoli, corn, carrots are her favorites. I don’t put any sauces on them, except butter on occasion. I remember my dad trying to “mask the taste” of broccoli with melted cheese and just destroying the vegetable for me. I was shocked to discover I loved it when I was twelve or thirteen and my always dieting stepmother demanded he serve the cheese to the side so she could eat hers with lemon juice over it. I believe I told every single person I met for a month about this amazing discovery of lemon juice on broccoli.

Greens. The vegetable that one ups all the others. We're in the south, we get a variety of Kales, Collards, Mustard, Beet, Dandelion, Chards, Spinach...and a few I just can't think of. For grashopper I choose the more tender varieties and least pungent: Spinach, Chards, Dinosaur Kale. I usually cook them with beans or if it's a tough green, I boil it in the water with pasta. Grasshopper loves them sometimes, hates them sometimes.

Mushrooms. She likes cooked mushrooms.

Berries. Frozen blueberries. Seasonal raspberries, blueberries, strawberries.

Fruit. Apples, oranges, bananas, mango, melons, grapes.

Crackers. Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies or TLC cheddar crackers. But also just regular wheat crackers.

Catsup. What can you do? She loves to dip.


Whole Yogurt. Grasshopper eats a few bowls of plain yogurt with honey in it a day. It’s her primary dairy intake.

Honey. She inherited her craving of honey from my mom. For yogurt and cereals.

Whole Milk. In her cereal. On occasion she’ll drink it.

Eggs. She’s on and off with eggs, and we eat them rarely.

Cheese. Grashopper isn’t a fan of cheese, but some other babies might be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Toddler Talking Trash

I know I've been heavy on mommy posts, lately. But I'm thinking Grasshopper's interst in this blog, if she ever reads it, will be these sorts of posts.  Don't worry, though: I'm in the midst of a post on feeding a vegetarian baby. Okay. That's a lie. In order to justify another post about my wee one I hustled some synapses, which reminded me of the Quorn taste in my mouth, and how I once considered writing a post on the topic of raising a healthy vegetarian child. I am still at the dawn of thinking about writing that post however.

This post, by the way, is unabashedly about my adorable toddler whose requisite pronounciation mistakes have a distinctly crass bent.

boobies and cow poopFor instance, although she has always referred to her breastfeeding as, "NiiighNigh!" she ran up to me and started demanding boobies last week. Boobies?? Grasshopper is all but weaned and neither of us could remember the last time we'd uttered the "b-o-o" word. The next morning, though, she asked again. I said no, outright, which sent her into tears, but she quieted down and gazed at me intently as I started making her morning seven grain cereal. When I opened the freezer, as usual, and dumped a handful of frozen blueberries into the pot she let out a victorious gurgle of sorts and started laughing/chanting like an insane baby: boobies! boobies! boobies!

And just tonight she crassified another of her favorite foods. I was teaching her that all liquids aren't, actually, called agua or water. On the table in front of us: bilburry juice (jugo), milk, water, and ketchup. After a protracted conversation in which I had to assure her that my name was still "mommy" even if all the liquids were not "agua," she decided I wasn't pulling her leg. Then she pointed and named everything on the table: aqua, jugo, milk, cow poop.

And last but not least: after she sits on her potty GreenDaddy chirps: "Good job, Grasshopper! Let's go put the pee pee in the toilet." Grasshopper falls into a full tilt run towards the bathroom yelling, "Twat! Twat! Twat!"

We're trying not to encourage her in these mispronunciations, since I don't want to be one of the YouTube parents who thinks it's funny to teach their children to swear worse than sailors and put it on the web for the world to see. But, like my father always swore he was doing for me, I am saving these stories to tell her first dates (though by the time she's thirty-five, she'll probably just think they're funny too...heh heh).

Of course, my favorite of her words is not an uncouth mispronunciation at all: it's an extraordinary invention. A mix between the spanish and english words for shoe -- "zapato," and, well, "shoe." A shoepato.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Books, DVDs, & Online Toddler Activities

I'm down to a couple favorites for BabyG's new name: Grasshopper I really like. Verdita I decided against, in the end. I like G-pers, G-minor, G-whiz, and am also considering just making the G her and dressing up as we feel, as we go. Recently a friend suggested Greenhorn, which I think is funny, but not the right name. Have to confer w/GreenDaddy.
We haven't discussed Gpers' media tastes in the blog. Ever I think. And though I take inordinate pleasure watching her move gravel around or discover fallen leaves, there are actually times when we read books or watch the computer.

I read her books after taking her out of the bath in the morning, and before I get ready. Then, throughout the day we read on and off. And GreenDaddy reads her to bed at night.

Her first favorite book was a popular one: Moo Baa La La La. "A cow says moo, a sheep says baa, three singing pigs say, "La, la, la..." Since she was a little over a year old she's had at least the animal sounds memorized, and now she can actually recite most of the pages if it occurs to her to do so. Reciting this book while I'm driving the car or she's upset or sleepy is generally a surefire way to settle her down.

Or it was, until To Market To Market (this is a link to Amazon because I like reading the book reviews there). It's based on Mother Goose's:

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

Anne Miranda, the author, sends an old lady to the market for a farm's worth of animals, one at a time...but everytime the old woman returns from a trip to the market, the last animal she bought has escaped: the pig leaves the pen (uh oh!), the goose gets loose (uh oh), the goat eats her coat (uh oh)... You get the picture.

In the end the woman decides its no good trying to imprison or eat the animals, so she ends up taking them all to the market and together they buy tons of fabulous tomatoes, okra, corn, potatoes etc, go home and make vegetable soup.

I found the book listed in somebody's Amazon list of vegetarian books for kids. I guess this is vegetarian, but it's vegetarian in crazy, lovely way. No animals get eaten-- in fact at the end, the old lady and her menagerie snooze together on the kitchen floor. My hunch was that Gpers would be fond of it in a year or two because the illustrations -- very cool collages of vintage photographs from markets and cartoons -- seemed a little old for her.

But, of course, I remember reading all her books and thinking: no way my baby is going to like this, and then it's what she loves the most. As it went with this book. She loves the "uh ohs" in the middle of every rhyme. Sometimes that's all it takes.

Video Games

Boohbah Zone. I found the site Googling. The website refers to a BBC show called Boohbah, that I believe was only on air a couple seasons. Made by the Teletubbies people. We eventually rented the cd to discover the program is actually stranger than Teletubbies. But on the computer game version, Gpers loves watching the Boohbahs dance.

Kneebouncers is Gpers other favorite game. Boohbah I have to move the mouse around for her, except in a couple games where she's learning to do it just in the last few weeks. But Kneebouncers uses the whole keyboard: she has to push any key at all and it makes little things happen. She loves it.

Animal Noises we just click around and listen to sounds she loves to hear.

Stories at Nick Jr We (I) especially like the the Grumpy Bug, read by Sandra Bernhard.


You Tube. That's right. When GreenDaddy failed at hooking Gpers on the Daily Show, he made his way to YouTube and got the baby hooked on cat madness.

GreenDaddy likes to comment that watching YouTube has made him think television and movies aim to high: people are satisfied with very little. These cat videos and slide shows Gpers is addicted to are a case in point. She will watch cats, dogs, birds, any of these things. Sometimes we just watch the opening to Boohbah, which is on YouTube, and which is usually about as long as she's interested.

My First Signs by Baby Einstein. When I'm getting out of the shower and she's just bathed, I set her in the chair while I get ready, and she watches this on the computer. She calls it Boohbah. She's learned the signs since she's watched everyday for about a month, and even though she knows the words for most of ths signs already, she loves having something to do with her hands. The whole family has a crush on Marlee Matlin, the actress in the video. I've watched snippets of her talking with puppets (who don't have any arms or hands: strange in a signing video) at least 50 times, and I still like watching her.


Grandma Two things Gpers asks for in terms of the computer: Boohbah (any of the videos or the games) or Grandma. Grandma is my mother, who has a web cam. It took awhile, Gpers recognizes and asks after my pixelized mother with regularity. She's coming to visit the end of October and I think we're all curious to see how she reacts to a 3D Grandma.

We're wondering if she'll demand real life Windows Live Messenger my mom sends little cartoons or what have you, that last two or three seconds. After we all talk about ten or fifteen minutes, Gpers starts asking for them. Will she expect 3D Grandma to produce them in the air around her head?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On the Lust for Water

After an hour-long ride from Gandhinagar to Ahmedebad, I am coated with dust and grit. I desperately want to wash my face. The building where Kalapi uncle lives is one of several in the Azad or “Freedom” compound. The rows of concrete buildings remind me of the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago. The first time I went to visit him, I thought, “My uncle lives in the projects?” Inside, however, the apartment is conspicuously clean and well-kept. Kalapi uncle asks if I want to freshen up as soon as I walk in. The two-bedroom unit has one bathroom. I turn the faucet and nothing comes out. Not a drip. There are two buckets filled with water in the corner. Water for the day. I want to take off all my clothes and dump both buckets over my head. I know that I can make do with a cup full of water to wash my face, but I want to consume it all.

My father and Kalapi uncle grew up in a small town together. My father became a physician and immigrated to the United States. Kalapi uncle stayed behind in India and worked for a bank. He was the artistic cousin-brother. In the apartment, he played a cassette tape of Hariprasad Chaurasia performing Megh Malhar while we drank tea. He sprinkled the conversation with verses of Gujarati poetry, which were lost on me. His daughter chose the science and engineering track, though. At the time of my visit, she worked with India’s space agency at their headquarters on Satellite Road. In the corner of her bedroom, I could see her computer. It looked like a second-hand 286, but she had it covered with a sheet of plastic to protect it from the dust. I could not make sense of their situation. How was it that they had educations, solid middle-class jobs, and just two buckets of water to last them a day?

Gujarat, the area of India where my family lives, was in the middle of two years of drought when I visited in 2002. Over the five months of my stay, I got an education in water scarcity. A whole vocabulary – water tanks, tube wells, bore wells, step wells, pumps, bunds, catchment ponds, Bisleri, and Aquafina. I came to recognize rivers where there was only a long stretch of cracked earth. Rows of eggplants where there was only a parched field. Temple ponds where there were only dusty, old steps. I memorized the times of day and night when the city would most likely let the water flow through the pipes, for half an hour or fifteen minutes. Sometimes the water never flowed. In 2000, the drought got so bad that water had to be brought in by a train and tanker trucks to the city of Rajkot, where my cousin Dr. Jatin G. Buch lives. People said it was the worst drought in 100 years. Wells that had functioned for generations no longer yielded water, because the ground water levels dropped and weak monsoons had not replenished the supply.

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the average water use per person per day in India is 135 liters or 35.6 gallons, whereas the average in the United States is 575 liters or 152 gallons, more than four times the Indian rate. These figures mask huge variations. People in Phoenix, Arizona use more than 1,000 liters of water per day to keep their lawns green, more than seven times the Indian rate. Villagers in Gujarat, especially those in the Saurashtra and Kuchchh regions, use far less than 135 liters per day. Women there often have to carry their water on their heads to their homes. Carrying 1,000 liters for a family of seven on one’s head is out of the question. That would be 455 pounds.

There are tricky questions of how water use is measured, by person or household, domestic use or total use. The average single family usage calculated by the American Water Works Association is just 262 liters of water per day or 69.3 gallons, but that does not include water used in offices and commercial establishments – the water in the coffee at Starbucks, the fountain outside the office building, the beautified highway medians watered by automatic sprinklers.

I cannot stop at comparing averages. They are not enough for me. I am thinking of my family. I need to understand the material difference between my life and theirs. I stay with them in their homes. We drink tea and eat kakra together for breakfast. We eat pau bagi for lunch. We fold up our feet under our legs when a woman comes in the afternoon to sweep the floors. They ask me what I think of microwaves, if they really do help prepare food more quickly. We compare our lives relentlessly. You make more money, but we have the closeness of family. You have every kind of food available in the grocery stores, but it will never be as fresh as our market vegetables, as the ladiwalla’s karela. These comparisons are a fundamental part of our lives. A daily calculus even when we are continents apart. The comparisons give us insight into what it is that we even want from life, but they can crush the soul. Every aspect of experience is on the table – familial bonds, leisure, access to jobs, physical stature, mobility, water.

According to our own water bill, MaGreen, Grasshopper, and I each use 66 gallons per day at our home in Houston. I am not sure how I use my 66 gallons. We do not water our lawn since the green goddesses do that pretty well for us. Now that the baby is nearly potty trained, we don’t need to wash many diapers. My showers are not that long. No hot tub. I suspect that our regular use of the dishwasher, the washing machine, and the toilet flushing are the main culprits. None of my family in India use those appliances. The woman who sweeps does the dishes and the wash by hand. They used eastern, “squatting” toilets that take a small splash from a bucket to flush. (The toilets in the US seem to flush with a vengeance, as if the excrement must be made to feel that it can never return.)

During our last trip to India, I asked my cousin Malay how much water his family uses, but he does not know because they pump it out of a well. Though they live in a city, the municipality does not supply them water. Malay did show me was his rain harvesting system. The roof is slightly tilted to channel water into a pipe that deposits it into their well. “We live near to the sea,” he said, “so if we use too much water the entire supply will become salinated.” This civic sense seems to be missing in the United States, the idea that we all must take some responsibility for our shared resources.

I remember going on a trip with my parents to Arizona. As we drove by the green lawns, I criticized the gross misuse of water in the desert and I expected my parents, having experience water scarcity as children, to back me up.

They said, “The desert should be made green. Why leave it undeveloped? Gujarat should learn from Arizona. Environmentalism is fine, but they want to stop dams before India has a chance to develop.” Although my parents immigrated to the US over thirty years ago and have lived outside longer outside India than they did in it, I began to see that their sentiments were shared by many Gujaratis and that civic mindedness can be claimed by people on opposing sides of the same issue.

In 2006, the Gujarat government raised the level of its Narmada river mega-dam to 120 meters. The estimates of people displaced by the project range from a few thousand people to one million. Several villages of “adhivasis” or tribal people were submerged by the water. However, water is flowing through an elaborate canal network from the dam to urban centers and villages all over Gujarat. The government claims that the value of agricultural production increased by one hundred percent in a single year.

One river has been killed to revive others. The tribals have lost their ancient way of life, but the Sabarmati, which runs through Ahmedebad, flows all year now. I wonder what Gandhi, who was Gujarati, would think. Would he accuse us of lust for water? In Gujarat, he seems to be an unwanted conscience. An honored but resented memory. When I went to Gujarat during the drought, you could hear the lust for water. It was a gurgling sound in the empty pipes and under the dry riverbeds. How much water does it take to slake the lust? Is sixty-six gallons even enough? The logic of our lust for water is cruel. It is not to be measured by volume but in units of compassion and desire.

Water is supremely practical. It is a clean pair of pants. A glass of water. It is a washed, smiling baby. But at another level, I am not trying to secure adequate water. I want the water dripping from the woman in soap commercials on television. I want the mystique of water rushing through a machine, water splashing our already clean dishes over and over and churning our unstained clothes. I want the water in our water heaters hot even when I am miles away at work. I want to know that the damn is there, a sea of our own making. That we can transform the land, make it wilt or make it green.

I went back to India a few months back. My cousin Amit had bought a washing machine and installed Western toilets. He asked me if I wanted to freshen up and showed me his new bathroom. There was a bucket in the corner for taking a dhol bath. “We have a shower too,” he said. “And don’t worry about the water, you can take a shower like you would at home.”

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Pages Torn from the Franklin Day Planner

Switched Grasshopper (name of the day) to training pants, completley. That was a couple months ago, but I keep forgetting to mention it. She's about 96% trained, has been for the last two months. Some of that 4%: sometimes she pees the bed. Sometimes she's too interested or absorbed in the world to stop and pee. Like in a Tuesday Morning discount chain store, where I've stopped to pick-up a board book for a party we're on the way to...and where totally soaked through pants force me to buy the only outfit in her size, a tank top and pants with a split down the butt and ruffles in it...:

Visited Keith and Theresa's -- two major Gs of Green -- and checked out the amazing, environmentally responsible home they're making out of this neat concrete that is 3/4 air. Even little Grasshopper can pick up big chunks of the block. And they have a pond and tons of frogs. And their house is smack dab in the middle of Houston...It can be done! Neato.

Prepared for Tropical Storm Humberto, who snubbed us. A week or two before the storm, though, we had a river in front of our house after a regularly heavy rain:

Lost keys at the Hari Krishna Temple either while cartwheeling with Marcia, Pearl, and Carrie, or chasing the ecstatically dancing children, during Earth Dance 2007. Luckily Grasshopper seems to be a natural at ecstatic dancing, so even though we spent an hour and a half looking for our keys and still didn't find them, she found a 21 month year old groove and went with it, instead of melting down (like her parents). At nine thirty our friend Charles rescued us in his pickup truck(Marica and family had left when her kids' stomachs started roaring). Later, against all odds, I found a spare car key surrounded by gooey, sticky, humidified cough drops, in the bottom of a black purse in the back of the terrifying tool/tape/shadowy/coat/probably-cockroach closet.

Painted the livingroom Mesmerize purple, using Sherwin Williams no VOC Harmony paint. It is incredible, a lovely color that actually looks like the sky right before it turns night-dark. It doesn't look so good on the computer. We started painting the second part of the room in Aurora Gold but GreenDaddy was unsure if the contrast made the room look more like Mardi Gras in general or the Minnesota Vikings' outfits -- and this is very apparent on the computer:

We had to go back and buy a more sophisticated stone brown, which we haven't painted on yet, and we'll save the yellow, which is actually very pretty in real life, for a bedroom. And: hardly any fumes. I liked that Harmony.

Multiple Choice Confession:

a) Grassroots campaign to bring back the prairies
b) Important experiment on the length of grass and overall compost health
c) Too otherworldsly occupied to tend to the lawn
d) All of the above
e) A little BS, a little of all of the above
f) A lot of BS, a little of some of the above

Bought and/or helped arrange tickets for: GreenDaddy's parents to visit at the first of October, my mother to visit at the end of October, and We Three Greens to have Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle in Missoula, where they have a lovely new (an unburned :)) cabin in a place called Rock Creek.

Bought a bed for our parents to sleep on when they stay. We got this regularly $500 IKEA mattress from the special sale section of IKEA and bought the cheapest full bed frame to go with it, which we luckily liked better than the frames one or two hundred dollars around that range. (I like IKEA mattresses because they're the cheapest mattresses you can buy PBDE free...) At home, I spent four long hours assembling the frame. Then I put the mattress on to discover it was mislabeled. It was a Queen sized mattress that dwarfs the frame I almost killed myself assembling. We looked for the receipt and of course, though we have every piddling receipt for everything else we did that week, we threw the major purchase receipt away. So now we'll try to sell the frame I wasted important hours of my life assembling.

Developed a taste for Tofutti just this morning.

Phew. GreenDaddy, the ghost of Green Parenting, has a fabulous post he's holding out on. But that'll be up soon...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Big L.I.

I'm going to use my favorite BabyG names in the next few posts to see which ones feel the most like our little sweetie pie. Today's name of choice: Verdita (and variants).

GreenDaddy and I have been very busy the last two years doing all sorts of little things to make the world better for Verdita: we learned to compost, planted a garden, switched to 100% wind energy, joined a food co-op, searched out local and organic foods, turned more to buying used goods, got rid of one our cars and didn't buy a new one, we started avoiding petrochemicals, stopped using shampoo (usually), switched to nature store deoderant, joined freecycle to lessen our junk load in the dumps, & continued recycling, even our glass which means driving it to the recycling plant off Highway 59 and Westpark.

There's a lot more obviously green things out there we're not trying yet, but we're working toward: I want rain barrels and solar energy and a xeroscaped lawn and a meadow on our roof and less energy sucking cracks in the home and less time in the car and more efficient fuel and all sorts of things, these are just the first that come to mind. I think we'll get around to most of these things, as our life progresses.

But there are some difficult things you have to do to make the world better for your children, and you can't twiddle your thumbs and do it when you're ready.

First thing sounds silly, but it's on my mind a lot: we have only planted one tree in our yard, and we've cut three down. Choosing where to plant a new tree, what kind to get, thinking about how it will grow, whether or not it'll bump into the neighbors' trees...we keep getting caught in this indecisiveness that means there are three years of tree growing we have wasted in this house. I feel bad about that.

But I feel worse about the big L.I. Life Insurance. And how we still haven't bought any. Even though, like a tree, it's something you need to have planted last year. Once, GreenDaddy's work was going to send over a man to give him a checkup, and we totally forgot. That's the closest we ever go to it.

We're caught up on questions the way we are with the tree: how much should we buy? from whom? what kind is best? how will we know we have the best deal? Basically, we just want to have already had it. The rigomorolle is daunting. But daunting in this way we have no business of actually acceding to. Because there's this little former baby, Verdita, who needs us not only to do what we can to save the world, but also needs us to provide her some kind of security in case we don't survive the world long enough for her to grow up in it.

Our whole parenthood we've struggled in accomplishing legal and financial issues, the way I think a lot of people who don't want to be materialistic do. You don't want money to matter. You want the way you raise your baby to be enough. And I do think the way you raise your baby is a lot. But then, you, meaning I, I really want to make sure GreenDaddy and the baby, or just the baby, can recover as gracefully as possible if I kick the bucket. Money isn't all they'd need to do that, but having no money, and being short a parent, or two, isn't what I want for the baby either.

We did finally get around to writing a will, and we got it notarized, a few months ago. So our next hurdle as financially and legally responsible parents is the insurance thing. I wasn't sure this is something that belongs on Green Parenting...but it's a parenting issue we're grappling with and I wondered what other people are doing, how other people are faring on this front, and what other perspectives on the issue people have.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Foogo Stainless Steel Products Review (Sippy Cup, Straw Bottle & Children's Thermos)

A few months a reader named Von announced the forthcoming of Foogo sippys, in the comment section of my Klean Kanteen stainless sippy review. I sent away for review samples, and was pleased to receive a nice packet of ‘foogo’ baby products right before we went to India. Here is the official review that pushes me over the line from ‘mom-concerned-about-safe-sippys’ into ‘part time mom, full time sippy kook expert.’

Finally! Another stainless steel sippy cup! After (three, four thousand?) years of begging for safe sippys there is one more option out there for us. Out of two. I mean, there are now two companies (that I know of) making stainless sippys. Two companies and plenty of information to suggest there is enough interest in the product to support two dozen companies: for example, we get more than 500 hits a month related to the keywords sippy, glass sippy, stainless sippy, safe cup, etc. [In fact, about half of those hits are specifically looking for glass sippys. Ahem. Did you hear me entrepreneurs??!! If that’s how many hits our piddly Green Parenting site gets, can you imagine the number of products you’re busily not making that would be sold if you were? Egads!]

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I am here to announce that the people who make thermoses have got themselves into the business of making baby sized ones, which I think is nice. Interesting, too, because they aren’t doing it to satisfy moms paranoid about leaching toxins into baby mouths. They just figured babies were as much in need of thermal containers as the rest of us. They worried about all the germs they discovered in plastic sippys full of milk, on hot days. Thermal sippys, they knew, wouldn’t have that problem.

So they stumbled into the green mom, non-plastic-sippy-fetish market. But that doesn’t mean their product doesn’t offer real competition to its sole competitor.


Right off the bat, I’ll say Foogo offers real advantages over Klean Kanteen. The first, most important and obvious factor to me is that they aren’t trying to alter a product made for adults or older kids into something that could be used for a baby. Instead, they are actually designing the product from the outset with a baby in mind. The retrofitting of adult products for babies seems on the very edge of offensive when you think about the $17.95 you drop for the less-than-ideally-designed KK produc, and especially if you remember that they know you're buying it because you don't want your kids drinking out of plastic and there's nothing else out there. I mean, I can see initially retrofitting the adult product. But after that. You know. Make something my kid can hold onto. Don't make me feel like you're poking me when I'm down. Right?

The second advantage of the Foogo is related to the first: it is not one product, it is a line of products including a sippy with handles, a sippy without handles, a sippy-straw flip top thing, and a thermos for kids. The regular sippys look a lot like plastic sippy cups, they’re just made of stainless steel. The larger straw-flip sippy is as tall as the KK, but – and this is key – thin enough for little hands to grasp comfortably.

All this to say: my baby doesn’t look like she has a barrel in her hands when she drinks out of either the sippy or sippy straw cup: she looks like she’s drinking out of a cup that’s just her size. Which makes sense when you dish out $15 (two dollars less than the KK) for a toddler’s drinking vessel.

The third advantage Foogo has is that it is a thermos. If it’s winter and you live in Alaska, like my old friend Derick, you can fill it with warm cider and it will not only stay warm, but it will refrain from becoming a chunk of block ice, which it would not refrain from doing in most every other sippy in the world. If you live in Houston, like my friend myself, you can assure yourself your baby girl is drinking ice water, not boiling water, at the park. No matter where you live, as the Foogo people don't mind stressing, your Foogo is more hygienic for dairy products than any other product available for the little ones.

For all these reasons, I like the Foogo. It’s true that the water that goes to the park in the KK comes back hot, and it doesn’t in a Foogo. My baby can hold the dang cup. These are good, important attributes to a sippy cup.


We talked about the half full part of the sippy cup. And I’m sad to report that there are definitely a few different half empty sides (it's not that I can't wrap up a metaphor, it's that I flunked geometry.)

Which is to say: sadly, like the Klean Kanteen, it has a lot of plastic parts. Of course, Thermos has only used the “safe” plastics -- #5, primarily. The spout on the sippy is made of Thermoplastic elastomer which is, the best that I can tell, a rubber of sorts. Many green sites (well, Treehugger) have little tidbits of info about TPE in ads for things they’re selling. TPEs are supposed to be biodegradable, and safer than plastics.

Unlike the Klean Kanteen, however, if you leave water in the Foogo for more than a few hours it starts tasting like plastic. Or TPE. Maybe it’s not a toxic leachy taste as much as an environmentally safe rubber taste: but it’s a bad taste. Especially this happens in the straw container, maybe it’s whatever plastic the straw is that causes it.

Sadly, I say, because I really like the Foogo. Since I do like it, we just keep up on changing out the water. I spend time hoping that “no known hazards” in the #5 plastic means “no hazards” instead of, “Oh, no. Yep. Ooops. There it is. Hazards.” If we’re going out into the searing heat, or if BabyG demands the Foogo, we opt for the KK.

The last annoying thing about the Foogo is this: if you buy a KK you get extra parts in case that little plastic thing that keeps sippys from leaking gets lost in the dishwater. Maybe those extra parts are the extra two dollars. I would pay them because in the life of a toddler’s possession, a tiny round slab of plastic stands a slim chance of lasting longer than two or three months. All parents will need a spare little piece of plastic, why not include a couple spares, like the KK people do?

Mind Blowing Conclusion:

My mom once met a slightly paranoid man who went around muttering all sorts of nutty things, her favorite being: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, kid, but nobody wants to die to get there.” In this land of inventors and entrepreneurs, I can't help noticing everybody wants to make a million bucks, but nobody will listen to the plaintive call of neurotic, maybe…but with reason!...and determined mothers across the planet that says: make me a plastic-free sippy. Day after day on this website the dozens of safer sippy hits coming in tells me somebody oughta.

Really I don’t get why the KK people didn’t figure out a different top. If people are shelling out $5 more for a stainless steel water bottle over a #5 plastic one, why not make stainless steel tops. Or those TPE, environmentally sound rubber tops? The Thermos people, I’m not sure they realized our part of the market exists. It seems to me they could tweak their tops pretty easily and make something more satisfying.

But. Sigh. Both options are better than all bisphenol A plastic. Or all ‘safe’ plastic, even, so far as I’m concerned.

Here is my expert advice on sippy cups: if you have a baby less than 2, go for a Foogo. Baby will be able to hold the cup. Change out the water every couple hours or so. If your baby is over two, and if they’re not jealous of their friends with straw flip containers, go for the Klean Kanteen. Both products are, for different reasons and in their own ways, and in the immortal words of Mary Hume, “almost perfect…but not quite.”

At the Greension we don’t use the plain thermos container so much because we picked up lots of stainless steel tiffins in India, and that’s what most of BabyG's snacks are stored in. They’re less bulky -- but I like the Foogo thermos and think one day it'll come in handy. Right now she’s not so much into soups, she’s more a Cheddar Bunny, Grape, and non-chicken Nugget kind of girl.

Despite our hesitations, we also do use the sippys every day. At least, we did until the little plastic part on the lid of the regular sippy fell off and got lost. I’ll send away for a replacement, but for now that sippy is nothing more than a freewheeling fount of water. Until it broke, BabyG loved it. She also loves the straw-sippy, which we still use every day.

Did I mention that in this land of inventors and entrepreneurs, I can't help noticing everybody wants to make a million bucks, but nobody will listen to the plaintive call of neurotic, maybe…but with reason!...and determined mothers across the planet that says: make me a plastic-free sippy. Day after day on this website the dozens of safer sippy hits coming in tells me somebody oughta.

Friday, August 24, 2007

I LOVE it when GOOD is EASY: A Tryptic


Last few days I've been searching the web dressed in black because Laura at Lines of Lattitude turned me onto this:

>If Google had a black screen, taking in account the huge number of
>page views, according to calculations, 750 mega watts/hour per year
>would be saved...[a guy therefore]created a black version of the Google search engine, called Blackle, with the exact same functions as the white version,
>but with lower energy consumption: spread the word-

I LOVE it when good is EASY. And when it makes me look hip and mysterious. So much so, actually, I darkend the whole computer yesterday. I use the Opera web browser and I chose a black skin for it, which turns out, is easier on the old eyeballs. Most of the places I write are still off white,but the surrounding areas aren't.


Laura's socially responsible leadership doesn't stop there. She also turned me onto the New American Dream's webiste, and it's campaign to reduce carbon consumption by having people pledge to change one thing about their lives every month -- last month they shopped locally, this month they'll drive less, next month they'll "Junk Your Junk Mail", then they'll help "Break the Botled Water Habit", etc. etc. I like little one step at a time things that don't overwhelm me but that keep me on track. I hope I've mentioned how much I LOVE it when GOOD is easy.

If you make the pledge by clicking on the little icon below this paragraph it is possible you will earn GreenDaddy...the man so devoted this website that he posted a picure of his armpit (our most looked at greenparenting photo, by the way) in his quest to find a deoderant strong enough for bicyclers in Houston's August heat... a brand new bike. Because the C3 people are having a spread-the-word kind of contest.

Carbon Conscious Consumer Logo


This last thing is GOOD and it is EASY depending on what you LOVE.

And since I've already been busy telling you how to be, I thought I'd actually point your eyes towards the little (unpaid, PSA) ad I put on the right side of the site a couple days ago. Click on it and see how the National Wildlife Federation has a campaign to get something like 10 or 20 thousand backyards certified as wildlife habitats, and what you can do to make yours one.

The process acutally isn't too difficult...I imagine many readers' yards already qualify, though we're only about halfway there. We might not get it done this year, but I'll definately keep the guidelines in mind and work towards them as our yard grows.

But you more naturally greenthumbed people can probably already certify, or just make a few changes to do it.