What in the Wood?!

Making wooden toys has been an interesting venture for us.  A lot of what we do is re-educating people that wood is actually safe.  We have to convince people to trust in what God gave us to work with.  I’m realizing that we have come believe that plastics are safer than wood.  I can’t tell you how many times a day we get questions about splinters, about how hard or soft the wood is on baby’s gums, about sanitation and durability.  How is it that we’ve come to trust in man made plastics full of God knows what over the natural, God-given materials of our planet?  I get it, I do.  Plastics look smooth and new, they come in friendly colors and can be molded into just about anything.  But when you stop to think about it, why am I more comfortable with something made in a factory than something made by the hand craftsmanship of a skilled artisan working with materials naturally given from the world around us?

Plastics were first invented in the late 1800’s and production exploded during the 1940’s and WWII with needs for lightweight airplane parts as well as the invention of petrochemicals.  The world gasped, we wondered how we had ever lived without these marvels and we adopted them into every nook and cranny of our lives.  Though some plastics today are made from plants (like corn and sugarcane), they only account for a small proportion of the over 300 million tons of plastic per year produced (The Globalist, 2015).  The vast majority are derived from oil and natural gas (and we know the dangers those resources pose).  Plastics are cheap, they are moldable, they are convenient, but are they worth the real cost?  Why do we automatically assume newer is better?

If you’re reading this, you are probably already aware of the many dangers of plastic to our bodies, our babies and our planet.  I’m not going into that (though Wellness Mama has a great, comprehensive article that articulates much of what I believe).  What I’m thinking about today is changing our attitudes and comfort levels.  I’m asking you to question your comfort levels.  We have literally become accustomed to plastics.  We feel safe with them.  And this has happened in a relatively short amount of time.  Plastics have only been around for about 200 years.  Glass and metal for thousands of years.  But wood has conceivably been around since the beginning of time (I mean, Eve ate an apple from the tree, right?).  So why is it that we hold so tight to a material that is so relatively young?  We’ve had wood, metal and glass around for thousands if not millions of years, but somehow the new guy in town has taken over.

Plastics, plastics everywhere!!!

I would argue that much like the genetically modified crops, the petrochemicals, the nuclear power, the antibiotics that our grandparents and our parents adopted as saviors, plastic is being revealed by my generation (X, Y, Millennials?  I’m never sure what I am!) as a fraud.  Though it definitely has its conveniences, the dangers far outweigh the risks.  Why subject ourselves to the toxins that change our body chemistry, the waste associated with its’ creation and the millenia for which it will clog our oceans, our freeways, our forests and our farms?  I believe when my parents and grandparents were raising children, these things were so new and untested that they seemed like miracles.  All we knew were their up sides.  Society was quick to adopt them as the gold standard for quality and usefulness.  Without the time to test their effects, plastics were mass produced and implemented everywhere.  Just like an untested drug released too soon, we have been the guinea pigs suffering the side effects.  Just like phen phen, they sold us skinny and we got heart failure.

Think about it.  Plastics are EVERYWHERE.  Over the past few years our family has tried to reduce  our dependence on nonrenewable resources in general, but on plastics specifically.  The problem is, we can’t practically do without them.  They invade our homes and our lives no matter how much we try to avoid them.  I’m looking around my living room right now at the electronics, the lotions, the rugs, the drapes, the shoes, the diaper pail, the diapers (even our “cloth” diapers have plastic shells and snaps) the toys (yes, the plastic toys– the horror!), the furniture, the clothing, the radio, the diffuser, the light fixtures, the outlet covers, the mail, the magazines, the books- it all has plastic parts.  Not to mention the kitchen- my God, the entire refrigerator is made of plastic- ahhhhhh!!!   I’m overwhelmed when I stop to think about it.  How is it we let these materials into every facet of our lives without fully knowing what was in them or what effects those materials had on us and the world around us?  Why are/were we so ready to adopt something new over something that had worked just fine forever?

Check out how long it takes plastic items to decompose in our oceans (cuz that’s where much of it ends up)- 400+ years!

So I’m asking you to question your thinking.  When you ask yourself- well, what about splinters in my wooden toys?  Think about when those plastic toys break and become little daggers.  Think about the tiny shavings sharp teeth carve out and little bodies swallow.  Every time you pull a teething toy out of the freezer and put it in your babies’ mouths, think about what they are sucking out of it.  When you buy a cheap plastic toy, think not just about the $9.99 pricetag, but about the price our planet will pay when it’s forever in our landfills.  Just like antibiotics, like petrochemicals, like nuclear power, plastics have their uses and their downfalls.  It’s time we gave them their fair consideration.  All around us, people are questioning how necessary these great inventions of the 20th century really are, what their true costs really equal out to be.  I urge you to question your notions of safe, of normal, of comfort and look at where they were born.  In my heart, I know I feel closer to nature when I’m surrounded by it.  New is nice and I see its appeal, but there’s something about manufactured housewares, toys, homes and products that just feels fake.  Because they ARE fake.  We have so much that nature has freely given us to work with.  It’s right here.  It’s cheap, it’s renewable, it’s dependable and IT IS SAFE.  So stop your worrying and go back to your roots.  Mother nature provides, man.  It’s time to trust her and to think twice about what man is providing in her place.

Still worried about splinters?  Check out this Tough Love Wooden Teether that’s taken more than an average beating.

Why Can’t I Afford to be Healthier?!

In my quest for a healthier, greener, eco-friendly, whatever you want to call it, lifestyle, I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately.  Our family is by no means well off.  We make ends meet, but with not much extra to spare, so shelling out extra green to go “green” is often hard to justify.  Why should I have to choose between a healthy lifestyle and a healthy bank account?  Why do things that are ultimately better for me cost so much more up front?  I was talking with another mama this week and she was telling me how she was super health conscious with her first child- no wheat, no chemicals, all organic, all whole foods all the time, while with her second child, she just can’t afford to make those choices.  So unfair!  Our family has spent time on food stamps and the WIC (Women, Infant and Children) program in California and I am appalled that they shell out hundreds of dollars a month for products full of nutritionally deprived, government subsidized corn, wheat and soy but give you literally $8 a month for fresh fruits and veggies- WHAT?!  Why does our government subsidize corn, wheat and soy and not nutritionally dense, eco-friendly organic, locally grown fruits and veggies?  If our society ate more nutritionally dense foods, our health care costs would be better and our environment would be better taken care of.  Pisses me off!

What’s more, you cannot even buy milk from cows not treated with RBST, free range eggs, antibiotic infant meats or organic, non-GMO whole grains with your WIC checks and health food stores, even the big ones, don’t accept WIC.  I understand that the government is providing these benefits and when we have had to use them, I am thankful for what I get, but I’ve been left feeling guilty about filling my family’s stomachs with junk.  And when I have used food stamps to buy organic products or to shop at stores like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, I feel the stares from the more affluent people in line judging me for using “their” tax dollars on such expensive items (ahem- I pay taxes too, so it’s my money as well, but we’ll save that argument).  What, should I be buying the incredibly cheap cheetos and coke instead?  If our country did not subsidize the crops that go into our junk foods, they would better reflect the true costs of them.  If fresh, naturally grown, fruits and vegetables were more affordable, poor people would buy them!  And if I feed my family healthier foods, if I keep toxic chemicals out of our home, I am saving all of us on health care costs down the road.

Teaching Emma to make fresh orange juice from homegrown oranges- love that there are cokes in the background here! :p (These are ornamental but sometimes I enjoy a coke!)

So wake up, America.  Support EVERYONE buying healthier- not just those with money.  If you see a family in front of you using food stamps to buy organic, applaud them. Don’t shame them into buying junk food.  Raise them up and thank them for raising healthy kids and for helping lower the costs for us all.   A big reason fresh fruits and vegetables, green, local and organic products are more expensive is due to supply and demand.  There is a lot of demand for junk food, so it’s cheap and it’s cheap so we buy more and round and round.  It’s time we use the buying power not just of the rich, but of the multitudes of the middle and lower classes to lower the costs of the products that are good for us.  Among people who have a little extra change in their pockets, these changes are taking hold.  We have seen the rise of Whole Paycheck, excuse me Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s in recent years, green products are on the rise, and awareness of the importance of supporting organic and local farming is huge.  Education and empowerment of the poor is crucial to this change taking hold.

**I would like to highlight that the certified Farmer’s Markets accept WIC checks for fruits and vegetables and WIC even offers a once a year additional Farmer’s Market check to be used for fruits and veggies (check what your state offers here: https://www.fns.usda.gov/fmnp/wic-farmers-market-nutrition-program-fmnp).  

Also, for anyone who doesn’t know, there is also a grant from the state of California for CalFresh recipients- if you spend at least $10 of your food stamps at the Farmer’s Market, they will give you an additional $10 per day in free fruit and veggie tokens to use there.  Ask about the Market Match program at your local Farmer’s Market! 

And most farm stands and even CSA programs (we use The Abundant Table in our area) now accept CalFresh as forms of payment- please comment below on any resources you are aware of for affordable healthy choices.  I’d love to keep the discussion going!

My Placenta Turned Me Crunchy

That sounds gross, right?!  It’s really not that gorrey though- hang with me here.  I’ve become much more crunchy granola lately and I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got here.  It’s actually been a pretty short ride.  Until recently, I honestly felt very overwhelmed by how much I wanted to change in order to become more eco and health conscious- I felt like I had to change everything all at once, so why even try because it was too much.  As I mentioned before, with our daughter (now 4), I was so overwhelmed by just becoming a mother that I really couldn’t consider ideas on parenthood and health that were any different than what i was raised with.  I just went along with what I knew and didn’t question it.  For some reason, when I was pregnant with my son (now 10 months), I started to really care about what I put in and on my body and those of my family.  I think this started when I decided to have my placenta encapsulated.  It got the ball rolling for me to make more healthy, crunchy changes in my life.

I suffered badly from postpartum depression with my daughter and peri-partum depression with my son and so placenta encapsulation was suggested as a possible solution to help after the birth of my son.  My wonderful friend and doula, Jayme Payan in Ventura encapsulated for me and it was a wonderful, easy, not gross process (if you’re looking for a doula and/or placenta encapsulation, go to her- she’s AWESOME! https://doulamatch.net/profile/10168/jaymee-payan).  Basically, she cooked up my placenta and made it into odor free, taste-free pills that I took daily for a few weeks.  It was super simple for me and it worked!  My postpartum was virtually non-existent this time around.  I was sold.  People thought it was weird, but I didn’t care.  I think it made me more confident to try other things outside my family norm.  And I think something was in it that me turn crunchy-granola!

After that, one day seemingly out of the blue, II decided to start cloth diapering.  I was out shopping and I decided I wanted to give it a try.  I watched a bunch of YouTube videos, I talked to a few friends and I jumped right in. That was easy enough, so next came making my own baby wipes and diaper creams, and then I had all the stuff so I might as well make my own lotions, chapstick and deodorant, right?!  And then of course came my fear of plastics and the creation of our wooden teething toys.  My husband thinks I’m nuts most of the time and often asks what’s next, but he goes along with it.  And the teether thing has turned into his hobby, so now he’s in!  It’s been kind of a snowball effect and it’s still rolling.

Little Fluff Butts are the Cutest!

Now that I’ve started, I see I do have an all or nothing sort of approach to this whole thing and now I want to change everything.  And it feels good.  I know what I’m putting in and on us and it feels simple and pure.  My food choices have changed, my family eats more fruits and veggies and we buy them locally as much as we can or grow our own, we reuse our grey water and recycle our containers.  We use essential oils to heal what ails us.  And hey, coconut oil and breastmilk are magic right?! I am starting small with dreams for big changes.  There’s a lot more down the rabbit hole for sure, but it’s kind of a fun ride.  So, eat your placenta, eat your veggies, make your own shit, grow out your armpit hair and do what you feel is right for your family- you might be surprised how good it feels!

Here are some links I love that you might find helpful too:

Crunchy Moms

Natural as Possible Mom

Natural Homemade Baby Care Products

Homemade Baby Wipes

DIY Lavender Sugar Scrub that Rocks

Coconut Oil Uses

 

The Jurassic Park Solution?

Got into a discussion with some other mommies yesterday about Clay’s amber teething necklace.  While they are the cutest little baby jewelry around and sure do look cute, do they really do anything?  Is amber the secret to a happily teething baby or just another gimmick?  Because I’m a nerd who loves to read and I hate to be fooled, I decided to see what I could find for hard evidence on the topic.

The theory behind the amber teething necklace is that when baby wears it, his body heat triggers the release of a minute amount of oil that contains succinic acid, a naturally-occurring substance in the body. When the oil is absorbed, advocates say, it has an analgesic effect on swollen, sore gums (Heidi Murkoff, What to Expect 2017).  But what evidence beyond anecdotal is there to support this claim?  Moms swear by this remedy and you can find numerous testimonials to this effect everywhere you look.  And it’s not just crunchy or new-age moms- this is a mainstream trend these days.

A review of PubMED and MEDLINE, two online medical journals, however, shows no actual scientific studies conducted on the efficacy of amber teething necklaces.  The only thing that has been studied are the dangers of them as strangulation and choking hazards.  Here’s the Wiki on Succinic acid, which does make passing reference to it’s anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s honestly kind of hard to believe that one could get a high enough dosage out of this tiny necklace to make a difference, or that absorption through the skin is an effective method of delivery for this minute dosage.  Even the Wiki on Oils of Amber has a measly one paragraph on historical medicinal uses- you’d think there would be a lot more on something that’s been encapsulating mosquitos since the dinosaur age!  One article I did read says that baltic amber degrades into acetic acids (vinegar) and I had been noticing my son smelled like vinegar since wearing his necklace- makes sense now! (John Snyder, Science-Based Medicine 2014).

I searched and searched today through my library’s online journal articles, the always informative, if not always legit, interwebs and various blogs and mommy boards and I can’t find one scholarly article showing that this super cute trend is actually treating my baby’s teething pain.  I do find a lot warning me to be careful that I don’t kill my baby with one, though.  I never tried the amber necklace with my four year old, Emma, but I thought it could be worth a try with my 9 month old, Clay, as what I thought worked well with Emma, Hyland’s teething tablets seem to be little more than powdered sugar and belladonna, but have been banned by the FDA.  And Clay looks just so adorable in his teething necklace and cloth diaper, but now I just don’t know!

Tell me, people- what are your thoughts and experiences?  Is there evidence out there I’m just not seeing and if so, why aren’t actual scientists studying it?  Is it the power of suggestion, like a placebo effect?  If I believe in it, does it make it true? Have I just ruined the magic?!  If I’m being scholarly, I have to think that amber teething necklaces are a hoax- a super cute, very fashionable, adorable hoax, but not one that is going to relieve the painful teething symptoms of my poor baby.  But, for today, I think I’ll think with my heart, remain in La-La land and continue thinking that positive thoughts and good looks really do bring happiness to my adorable jewelry clad little man!  How about you- does your baby subscribe to this fad and why?

 

Our battle with Teething Toys

 

So, Clay is teething and I have to say he’s a little champ.  Sometimes I wonder if this kid has no pain receptors or something because he pretty much laughs everything off.  But teething pain is no joke and I feel so bad for the poor guy.  I can remember getting my wisdom teeth in and how much that hurt.  I can only imagine what must be going on in his little mind wondering what that is that’s bothering him.  He’s slobbering, he’s not sleeping, and most of all, he’s chewing on EVERYTHING.  And what should we let him put in that sweet little mouth?

With our four year old, Emma, I honestly was so overwhelmed by just becoming a mother that I didn’t do much research into what I was putting in and on her body.  I just did what my mother  suggested and really didn’t have the energy to question if this was still the healthiest decision for my little love.  I gave her plastic teethers filled with God knows what, ibuprofen, and a wet washcloth for the most part.  Sometimes a frozen banana in a plastic mesh holder.  These are viable options and did relieve some of her pain it seemed, but now that I’m a second time mother, I am more able to consider other options for my family that are more in line with my beliefs.  Namely, I am very leary of hidden toxins such as phthalates, parabens and antimicrobials that manufacturers have found it acceptable to put in our lotions, toys, cleaning products, foods, etc.  A recent study in the ACS (American Chemical Society) journal Environmental Science & Technology “reports that all tested plastic teethers contained BPA and other endocrine-disruptors that leached at low levels,” (ACS.org 2016).  So, what do we do?

Luckily, we have options today like silicone teething toys, natural rubber teething toys and even better, wooden teething toys.  While silicone and natural rubber are good alternatives and my baby and I do love the feel of them, they harbor much more opportunity for bacterial growth than wood does.  Because of their porous structure, silicone and rubber just have more areas for bacteria to grow.  You also have to consider the source of your silicone and rubber- is it food safe, is it natural rubber or synthetic?  You also have to be wary about the compounds that bind the rubber and/or silicone together, about the fillers that provide color and stability, and there just haven’t been enough studies to satisfy me definitively that food grade silicone is not leaching stuff into our bodies that actually is toxic.  It’s still a scary world of teething toys to navigate.  That’s why we choose wooden toys.

Wood is hard and does not lend itself to bacterial infestation in the way that silicone and wood do.  It’s durable, it’s light, and with an untreated wood finished in natural materials (coconut and beeswax in our case), there really is no opportunity for nasty chemical compounds to be hidden.  It’s pure, it’s simple, with nothing hidden.  While I do love to sport my silicone teething necklace, I’m even looking to change it out for a wooden teething necklace.  I just feel better about providing my family with the safest products I can find and for me, wooden teething toys do the trick.

The first teether Jon made!

We are proud to make our toys out of untreated FSC certified maple wood.  It’s hard and it’s structure makes it naturally splinter free so you don’t have to worry about it hurting those sore little gums.  Wood is a renewable material so you can feel good about what you’re doing to the planet as well.  We carve, route and sand the wood by hand then finish it as simply as possible to enhance color and water resistance with a light coat of beeswax and organic coconut oil (we use refined coconut oil as it has a milder smell and less likelihood of allergic reactions).  That’s it- nothing added, nothing taken away, nothing hidden.  In the world of parenthood, there are so many dangers to navigate.  We shouldn’t have to investigate children’s toys to avoid them, but we do.  So I say stay simple- stick with products with ingredients you can pronounce that are manipulated as little as possible.

Let me know what you think and what your favorite teething toys are!

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