making the earth greener one tiny baby at a time

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Poor Baby

Commercials are powerful.  They can convince you you need things you already have, or want things you never knew you wanted, or even think in a new way.  I was pulled in tonight by a commercial.  "Real life" people were talking about how their cars did these amazing things: The car woke them up when they were falling asleep behind the wheel, or slammed on the breaks before the driver even had a chance to react.  "I need this car!"  I thought.  "I need to keep my child safe in this car!"  So, let's just wait till the end of the commercial to see what it is so I can get it ...okay... still waiting...long commercial... I think this is John Hamm doing the voice over....oh....okay.  It's a Mercedes.

For those of you who know me, you know there is no way I can afford a Mercedes.  And that is fine with me.  I could care less what kind of car I drive.  I chose my car for the gas mileage and airbags, not because I thought people would envy me cruising past them on the highway in my sweet Scion XA.  But this commercial wasn't about status symbols, it was about safety.  And there is nothing that will make you feel worse about your parenting than thinking you can't afford to keep your child safe.  It occurred to me yesterday when I was speaking to some other mothers about convertible car seats.  These range in price with the safest being the most expensive.  So, if you can't afford the safest one, does that mean you don't care about the safety of your child?
What a terrible decision for a parent to have to make.

So I wanted to share with you an essay I wrote for Momversations while I was pregnant.  It has nothing to do with being green, but if you are in a similar financial situation you may be able to relate...


by Rebecca Sage Allen

I was never that girl that dreamt about having babies.  I never needed to hold anyone’s baby or peek in a baby carriage or thought that all babies were cute.  Once in a while I would meet a baby that really got to me, and I would think it was special, simply because I didn’t have the urge to ignore it.  I love my friend’s and family’s babies, and knew I would love my own if and when I decided to have one.  But just because I didn’t lie in bed dreaming of nurseries and mommy–and-me groups, didn’t mean I didn’t picture what it would be like to be a mom.  You just assume that if and when you have children their childhood will be similar to your own.  They grow up in a house, they play in a yard, they are not spoiled but they want for nothing.  There is no debate over, “can we afford to get this ice cream?” or “”are you sure you can’t squeeze into that jumper one more year?”  Life takes care of itself because you are financially comfortable.  In the picture…but in reality…

You are five-months pregnant and you are not in a house, you are in a two-bedroom apartment, setting up your babies room/guest room/home office and hoping that the neighbor somehow decides to quit smoking between now and the wee one’s arrival so that smoke doesn’t keep billowing in from their windows directly into your babies’ crib area.  You have asked your upstairs neighbor a half a dozen times to please stop manically spitting off his balcony as it travels past your windows and you are tired of thinking, “Is it raining?  Oh, no, that’s the neighbor’s phlegm.”  You stare out your living room window at the building next door, a Department of Water and Power “station” and wonder what goes on there with all the “Danger: High Voltage” signs and hope that none of this is silently giving you and your unborn child some terrible disease.  And that yard that you grew up frolicking in has been reduced to a 3x5 balcony, big enough for a few plants and two tiny folding chairs.  This is not the motherhood you imagined.  You thought you would be like the Cosby’s, but it turns out you’re Roseanne.

My parents were wonderful.  And their greatest service to me might have also been their greatest disservice.  They always encouraged me to follow my dreams.  They paid for my degree in musical theater, supported my move to Chicago, a city I had never once visited in my life, to pursue improv and sketch comedy, and were 100% behind me when my husband and I decided to take the leap and move to LA.  And although we have been extremely successful by our own standards, that success never came with a big paycheck.  We are frugal; we have savings and no debt.  But we never know where the next paycheck is coming from, or how much it will be, or how long it will be for the next one to follow.  All this was perfectly acceptable to us, the couple, until we found out about this bun in my oven.  Now along with all the other pressures that cram a pregnant woman’s brain I am feeling the most force from the mighty dollar.  Will this kid be able to go to a good pre-school?  Will she be fluent in sign language and French by kindergarten?  Will our Christmas cards have a montage of black-and-white photos of her at a beach, and a raspberry farm, and a pumpkin patch?  And how will I be able to deal with other mothers who have the money I don’t have?  Like last year, before I was pregnant, when my old boss said to me, “I’m taking the family to France next week.  Can you believe Jayna has never been to Paris?”  
Jayna was seven.

Lately I’ve been saying to my husband, “You know, we’re rich.”  If I close my eyes to all the material things around me I honestly believe this is true.  I have a fantastic, healthy family.  My husband is the greatest gift on the face of the planet.  My in-laws are magnificent.  We live in a free country, in a warm city a car ride from the ocean, in a safe, all-be-it small, apartment.  And our tiny baby girl is growing just fine inside my thrift-store-maternity-shirt-covered belly.  Regardless of what we earn we will make her feel like the richest girl on Earth, even if she hasn’t seen the City of Lights by the time she’s entering first-grade. 

Now, I am off to my prenatal yoga class!  And by prenatal yoga class I mean doing some general stretching on my living room floor.  Those classes are $17 a pop!  Don’t get me started on that…

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane

I heard a song this morning that took me back to a specific time in my life.  In fact, to a very specific moment. I was in my twenties (ugh, just by writing "in my twenties" solidifies the fact that I am, indeed, no longer in them) and traveling alone from London to Amsterdam.  I had taken a night-time ferry to a train that had me arrive in Amsterdam at 4:00 AM.  I was nursing a broken heart at the time, thinking that the man I was in love with was in love with someone else, and found this journey to be just the perfect amount of dramatic for me.  And now, in my thirties, as I look back at that moment, instead of thinking what a wonderful adventure it was, all I can think is, "I would never, EVER let my daughter travel alone to Amsterdam in the middle of the night!"

So, let's talk about Earth-friendly traveling, shall we?

I've said it before that convenience is the enemy of eco-consciousness.  But so is stress.  When preparing for our August trip to Michigan, thinking about the two flights there, the two flights back, the car trips in between, etc.  I thought my brain might implode by adding cloth diapers into that equation.  Plus, the last time we flew with Phoebe she was four-months-old and 100% breast-feeding, so everything was easy peasy.  How does one bring home made, organic baby food on vacation?  And toys?  And books?  Aye-yi-yi!  Well, here is how.

First of all, if you don't have an awesome mother-in-law and sister-in-law, go out and grab some.  I know I am ruining every modern cliche but I absolutely love my in-laws.  They did everything they could to make this trip as easy as possible on us.  Regardless of how you feel about the people you are visiting, lean on them to help you get thru this.  If they can provide pack-n-plays, strollers, etc, let them.  If they don't have any baby accoutrement or you are vacationing alone, there are plenty of websites that rent baby equipment so you don't have to bring your or buy it new.  Just put in the the town you are visiting and baby rental into a google search and it should pop up!

If you are feeding your baby homemade food this is a bit tough.  My Mother-in-law bought us a little food blender intended to make one-serving smoothies and it worked perfectly!  The first day of our trip we went grocery shopping, bought a bunch of organic veggies, steamed them, blended them and stored them.  I have this little contraption called "Zoli" that I love.  It is little food or formula bowls that all screw together that you can serve from.  I'll put a link below.  We brought our own multi-grain baby cereal since it is super light and travels well.  Along with a few spoons and a few empty bottles we were all set!

If you are a cloth diaper family I cannot say enough good things about the diposable gDiapers for travel. You can flush the inserts or just throw them away.  I hate to say it, but I think cloth diapers on the road are nearly impossible.  Or just, truly the greatest, stinkiest pain.  If you go the gDiaper route, bring lots of back up covers and liners.

Our trip happened to take us to a fairly remote part of the country.  The one grocery store (actually called "The Mercentile") didn't have much of a selection.  So we brought a few jars of organic store-bought baby food to get us thru.  Also, half way thru the trip we ran out of  gDiapers.  I had to buy...I can't believe I am even writing this...huggies.  It truly broke my heart.  So if you happen to be on an adventure far from civilization and don't feel like  bringing the entire nursery with you, consider having a box shipped with your supplies.  Either do it yourself or order straight off of, Amazon or whatever your favorite baby website is.  With baggage fees being what they are you probably won't spend any additional money on the shipping.  Can we take a moment to discuss the scam of baggage fees?  The price of gas has gone down airlines, stop making us pay because you are running your business into the ground.

And, speaking of taking advantage of the customer.  Do you know when you have a baby you can bring bottled water with you on a flight?  I claimed it was for "formula" even though I was breastfeeding.  It was somewhat hilarious though, as the security guy pulled my two giant Smart Waters from my bag and asked, "How long IS your flight?"  He actually confiscated one because he thought my water usage was "excessive."  We're really out there fighting terrorism people.

Whatever choices you make to ease the burden of travel, just think twice before you make "excuses."  With a little planning you don't have to be any more destructive to the planet than you are on a daily basis.

Oh, so you want to know what song I was listening to, sailing across the English Channel, heart shattered in pieces?  Not a chance!  I'm in my thirties now, I don't have let myself be embarrassed.


totally depressing environmental fact:
airports are known to be major sources of noise, water, and air pollution. They pump carbon dioxide (CO ), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and nitrogen oxides (NO ) into the atmosphere, as well as dump toxic chemicals--used to de-ice airplanes during winter storms--into waterways

AWESOME!  One more reason to have a fear of flying!

As I write this, my husband's New Yorker calendar is open to a cartoon of a man sipping a martini on an airplane.  The caption reads:
"It's not enough that I fly first class...My friends must also fly coach."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Just A Quick Note...

I can't stop thinking about plastics #4...until I started doing this blog and the research behind it I had no idea that you could only recycle #4's at the bins outside of grocery stores.  I just assumed, living in the second largest city in the U.S, that if something had a recycle symbol on it, I could put it in my bin.  So make sure you are looking for #4's (mostly plastic bags and plastic wrappers), keeping them all together and taking them to the grocery store.  I also did a little research on ziplock bags.  It's hard to get a solid answer, but it looks as if these too can be dropped with your plastic grocery bags as long as you cut out the zipper.  I will try to get some more concrete information.

And just something to think about... it is estimated that plastics take roughly 1000 years to break down in a landfill, but just 10-20 years when exposed to air and sunlight.  It's clear we need to rethink how we dispose of the trash we have disposed of.  You know, when you throw it away and the truck comes and makes it "magically disappear."

totally depressing environmental fact:
plastic is petroleum based, and it’s estimated we use 1.6 million barrels of oil every year, just making plastic bottled water.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Said Something

Ugh.  So I confronted someone who littered, and I quickly learned why I never do it.

Last weekend my mother, daughter and I were coming out of a CostCo.  The sidewalk was a traffic jam of empty carts (not to get off topic, but come on everybody!  If you can haul a 48-pack of Sunchips into your house, you can push a cart ten feet to the cart corral).  So as my mom pushed Phoebe and the groceries around to the car I walked down the sidewalk, where ahead of me, a woman was putting her two daughters in a cart.  She then grabbed a bunch of plastic spoons, napkins and paper cups from those infamous CostCo free samples and threw them on to the ground.  I couldn’t believe it!  She just …threw them!  On the ground!  I was so furious.  And so, inspired by my last blog post, I said something.  I walked up to the cart, began picking up all of her litter, and said something to the effect of, “It looks like someone threw this trash all over the ground, so I’m just going to pick it up, because I hate litter.”  She was obviously caught WAY off guard.  She fumbled for a minute and said it wasn’t her who did it.  I said something about how it is disrespectful to ruin someone’s neighborhood, and then…it was ON!  She lost it!  She started screaming at me about how she hates litter too, but I don’t know what it’s like to have kids, they put everything in their mouth, (excuse, excuse, excuse!).  I got all fired up and told her that I am a mom as well, and I would never teach my children that littering is okay.  “And that is exactly what you are doing,…teaching them that it is okay.”  Meanwhile, her poor little girls are just staring at me like, “what... is... HAPPENING!”   The fight kept going and going!  At one point I just leaned against the wall and let her yell at me.  It was ugly.

So here’s the lesson.  I felt terrible the whole rest of the day.  Not because I said something to her, but because I fought with her.  I hate confrontation, and I am really not the kind of person who likes to be mean.  But I was crazy to think that we wouldn’t end up fighting.  What did I think, that she was going to say? “You know what?  You’re right!  I shouldn’t litter.  Thank you for teaching me such an important life lesson.  Who knew I would grow so much, here, in the middle of a CostCo parking lot!!  Do take care!”  I should have just picked the litter up, maybe made some eye contact, and walked away.  Or even gone the extra mile and say, “I know how crazy it can get with kids, so I’ll throw this away for you.”  Even if I’m thinking, “What’s wrong with you, you selfish idiot?!”

All in all it felt good to say something  I would have festered just as much that night if I didn’t say something.  And like my cousin said, “She’s touching the gross trash anyway, she couldn’t walk the few feet to the trash cans at the front of the store?”  I know I was right, I just went about it wrong.  What’s that great quote?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to say nothing.”

My new favorite piece of litter.  Found on a hike in Griffith Park.

Total depressing environmental fact:
Cigarette butts are one of the most commonly littered items in the world.  According to a
survey conducted by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, County residents drop a
cigarette butt on the ground almost 600,000 times per month.  That’s more than seven million cigarette
butts per year."