Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Save Handmade Toys

Every year there is an Oktoberfest street fair just down the road from our house. It's small and only stretches for a couple blocks, but it's walking distance and I love strolling past the different vendor's booths with a bag of kettle corn. I picture us walking to this fair as a family in a few years and buying our little girl one of those crowns made of curled ribbon and flowers, maybe letting her choose a small toy or puzzle from one of the booths.

If you've ever bought a child's toy at a fair, from an online vendor like Etsy, or from a kitschy little shop in your neighborhood, you know the value of handmade toys. What if all those unique options were no longer available?? I came across this post on Enviromom a few weeks ago and recently saw a similar article, both urging readers to help prevent the Consumer Products Safety Commission from enforcing an act which would be very damaging to handmade toy vendors. The Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act will require third-party testing and labeling of all childrens toys to ensure that they do not contain harmful amounts of lead or pthalates, a problem which has resulted in the recall of numerous childrens products in recent years.

In theory this is a great idea and will help ensure that companies who mass produce toys in foreign countries are adhering to federal safety regulations. However, for the maker of handcrafted toys, this act could essentially force them out of business because of the financial burden of third-party testing. Individuals who make toys from natural materials and have never used toxic chemicals would no longer be able to sell their products under the CPSIA. The Handmade Toy Alliance is proposing changes to this act, which is scheduled to go into effect February 2009, that would allow independent toy-makers to rely on the certification of materials suppliers, rather than testing each individual product.

I know this may sound preachy, but I remember walking through the annual craft fair in my childhood hometown; the school gymnasium packed to the gills with all sorts of little goodies. I can't imagine what that would have been like if half of those booths were missing, simply because they couldn't afford to prove that their carefully handcrafted toys didn't contain toxic chemicals. If you are interested in helping, there are some great ideas found at Cool Mom Picks. Most take less than 5 minutes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me

Today is my 29th birthday. Not exactly a milestone but still significant as the last year of my 20's. At the risk of being completely sappy and nostalgic, I feel very lucky. A lot has happened in my life over the past couple years and I am very grateful for the life that I have. I am engaged to a wonderful man who loves me more than I ever imagined and who I love more with each day. I have a beautiful daughter whose smile reminds me ten times a day that she is the most perfect gift. I live in a comfortable home and never have to worry about whether any of my needs will be cared for. I have an abundance of family and friends in my life who constantly love and support me. As my future husband would say "I'm living the dream."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Deja Vu

I don't want to sound like a jerk, but do people just not understand what this term means?? I was just watching a TV show where an announcer said "it's deja vu all over again" and I have heard people say things like that so many times. Deja vu literally translated means "already seen" so to say "deja vu all over again" is just redundant. It's like saying "3am in the morning." Really? As opposed to the other 3am? I know it is silly and nitpicky but this is one of those stupid things that bothers me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Trials of Sleep Training a Baby

So to elaborate on my previous post, we are in the process of trying to get Baby to sleep through the night in her crib. We went through this a couple months ago with varying levels of success and ended up backsliding due to extenuating circumstances (me being sick, Baby being sick, the holidays, etc). When Baby came home from the hospital, she was very tiny and seemingly fragile and as first-time parents we hated to hear her cry unnecessarily. She was very opposed to sleeping anywhere but in our arms and after a week of sleepless nights, I brought her into our bed out of sheer exhaustion. Lo and behold we discovered she could actually sleep for at least a few hours and that meant (cue the Hallelujah chorus) so could we.

Honestly the majority of the time I actually enjoy having her in our bed. It is comforting to have her right next to me and feel her little baby breath on my face and hear her peacefully snoring away. I sleep more soundly without the worry that she might be in some danger because all I need to do is open my eyes and there she is, safely snuggled between us. By snuggled though, I mean that her limbs are spread in all directions and she is taking up more room than seems possible for such a tiny creature. Her dad and I are huddled on either side on our allotted 2 inches of mattress, always just on the verge of falling out of bed completely. And this is the problem with having Baby in our bed.

By nature I am not a great sleeper so it comes as no surprise to me that my child would have similar issues. I spent the better part of my early childhood fearful that ET was living in my closet, silently waiting until the minute my parents left the room to come out for a visit. In college I loved living in a house with several girls because it usually insured that I was not home alone at night. On the rare occasion that I was on my own, I often spent the night on the couch with the TV on so that at least if someone decided to break in I would know right away. I hoped that by some miracle she would inherit her dad's uncanny ability to fall asleep instantly and not my habit of crawling into bed exhausted and spending the next half hour staring at the ceiling. She does go to sleep quickly but she also wakes up occasionally and sometimes has a very difficult time getting back to sleep. As you probably guessed, this too is my gift to our daughter. During my second trimester of pregnancy, I went through a phase of horrible insomnia. I would fall asleep easily and wake just a few hours later, completely unable to go back to sleep. My only solution was to move to the couch and read until I fell back to sleep. After a few hours I could return to bed and sleep the rest of the night. Luckily my third trimester brought such sweet exhaustion at night that often by 8:00 I could barely keep my eyes open and would sleep soundly until morning. This is truly the only time of my life when this has been the case.

I hope that Baby will get through this rough patch and follow in her father's footsteps when it comes to sleep. Listening to her cry in frustration in the middle of the night is enough to drive me to just relent and buy a bigger bed. But I trust the fact that we are doing what is best for her (and us) and continue the "Get in your own bed" campaign.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Telling the Internet Bullies to Suck It

Last night I watched some of the Golden Globe Awards while I was catching up on some stuff around the house. While most of it was basically a snooze as award shows tend to be, one highlight that I managed to catch was Tina Fey's acceptance speech in which she addressed people who had insulted her on the internet, telling them to "suck it." It was awesome!!

The internet has become a platform for individuals to post their opinions, many overly rude and far more aggressive than any normal person would speak to someone face to face. Under the cover of anonymity these people feel free to say the most insulting things to someone they have never met (and never will) based on the idea that everyone has a right to their own opinion. Celebrities like Fey are faced daily with public scrutiny from all angles, and although they bargained into this life by pursuing a particular career, I don't believe that it is necessary to use the internet as a virtual bat and pummel the hell out of them.

Bloggers are also subject to internet critique and the more popular the site, the more the crazies seem to come out of the woodwork. Heather Armstrong of "Dooce" has a widely known blog and receives hundreds and sometimes thousands of comments on her posts. Known for her exceedingly dry wit and sarcasm, the comments she gets often indicate that many of her readers have absolutely no sense of humor, otherwise they would never write the things they do. Occasionally she writes a post dedicated to addressing some of the more vile comments, which is often more hilarious than her normal daily banter. She tends to post snippets of the comments and then critique their spelling and grammatical errors, as well as their inept misuse of the English language. Here is a piece of advice to people who leave nasty comments on blogs... it's called proofreading - try it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

30 (or 45) Minute Meals

Over the past several years, I have really learned to like cooking. I didn't always. I used to really not like cooking except for the occasional delicacy, like maybe grilled cheese. In all honesty I was a little intimidated by the kitchen and afraid that anything even slightly more advanced than toast would turn out to be a disaster. What I have realized over time is that even the most amazing chefs sometimes make meals that suck. Take my dad for example. He is phenomenal in the kitchen and generally at least one item on the menu is almost impossible to pronounce. But recently he told me about a recipe that almost flopped completely. Luckily he was able to save it but it only reinforced the idea in my head that everyone blows it sometimes so you can't be afraid to fail.

I also love Rachael Ray for this reason. People seem to have strong opinions about her- they either love her or hate her and I personally think she's great. She does have some quirks and her personality is annoyingly upbeat sometimes, but she also explains cooking in a way that is accessible for even a beginner. I also like a lot of her recipes because they are yummy without being frou-frou and overly fancy. The whole idea of the 30 minute meal is very appealing, especially since many nights I have to wait until Dad is home because Baby is fussy and tired at the dinner hour and doesn't want to hang out while Mom spends a long time cooking. I admit that I'm not quite at the 30 minute mark because I'm just not as efficient in the kitchen as Rachael, but I'm working on it. I made some good old fashioned comfort food the other night and it turned out really well. You can find the recipe here. And I've found that the more that I experiment with cooking, the more I like it.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Reflection and Resolution

It's only natural this time of year to be looking at the past and setting goals for the future. The past year has been pretty monumental for me. I got engaged and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Both are life-changing events and have made 2008 my best year so far. I've always wanted to be a mom and my daughter is about as perfect as I could ever imagine. We've been through our fair share of sleepless nights and stressful times as new parents, but the times when I feel like I don't know what the hell I'm doing have gotten fewer and farther between. I think that's called progress. Or maybe that's just parenting. After watching her grow and change so much in the past 7 months, I can only imagine how amazing the next year will be.

In the past few years I really haven't made many resolutions because I tend to be the type to go strong for a couple weeks and then completely lag from then on. I like to make resolutions about things that I might actually do or am already in the process of doing. I also think it makes more sense to aim for goals that are relevant to my life and not just things I "should" be doing. At first it was difficult for me to think of any resolutions for 2009, but finally the ideas started flowing. One of my goals may seem cliche or even just plain trendy, but I really want to "green up" our house this year. I'm not saying we're going to start raising goats in the backyard and weaving our own cloth, but I would like to make some small changes that would make us a little friendlier to the environment. For anyone else with the same ambition, there is a great site I just found at called EnviroMom. They have some really good ideas without being preachy.

One of the last plans to hit the page was to start writing again. Well, here I am!
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