Sunday, August 24, 2008

Solar Ovens

I bought my husband a solar oven for Father's Day. I know it's a bit of stretch since I do all the cooking. I'm not ranting about that since I'm a better cook and a picky eater. He can & does cooks sometimes but it was an interesting thing to experiment with and Father's Day was a convenient excuse.

I bought it from the Solar Oven Society. They're a great organization in the Twin Cities and their oven received the best ratings in Cook's Illustrated last year. They sold out this spring so we've only had it about two weeks. We're really enjoying it. Living in Florida's summer heat it's great to not have to turn on the oven or stove in the afternoon. It really does make a difference in the ambient temperature in the house. I'm still learning how to use it. It requires a lot less water than conventional cooking so I'm learning how to adjust recipes appropriately.

So far everything we've made has tasted great. I'm not expecting anything dramatic on the electricity bill but I'm really satisfied that I'm doing something proactive. I'm also really looking forward to teaching older toad to cook with it. It's wonderful to think about teaching him a skill that doesn't require electricity as well avoiding the safety issues of the oven.
The ovens are not cheap but I feel well worth the investment. Think about my product plug and consider unplugging something.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Motherhood Reconsidered

I had a conversation with a friend about the challenges of motherhood and the culturally unacknowledged conflicts a lot of us have when the very next day there was a piece in the Utne Reader on the same topic (149 Sept. Oct. 2008 Bundle of Trouble by Robin W. Simon). They don't put the piece on their website but it is available for purchase throught the original journal Contexts (The Joys of Parenthood, Reconsidered by Robin W. Simon). I would try your local library for either journal.

The article discusses issues such as studies that show parents of grown children have no greater well being than adults who never had children. So why did I have the munchkin?


Well Fay rained out our August session on Consumption so we'll just pick it up in September.

The Story of Stuff was our media highlight. If you'd like to watch it in advance you can go here.

My reading list on the issue:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Water use

Check out this new website

They discuss worldwide water usage and it's implications. There is a water usage calculator. I use 458 cubic meters per year according to the calculator. That's a lot. It shouldn't surprise me since it all adds up but that's one big swimming pool. One of my big sins is my tea habit. One cup of tea is 30 liters of water in production. Beer is worse at 75 liters for a pint. It gets you thinking which is the point.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

National Registry of Mothers

National Registry of Mothers / Motherhood Museum Initiative


The motherhood foundation has established a national registry of mothers. The National Registry Of Mothers is the founding project of the Museum Of Motherhood, a project initiated by The Motherhood Foundation, Mamapalooza and The Association for Research On Mothering (ARM).

Everyone who IS a mother, HAS a mother or wants to SHARE a mother story PLEASE REGISTER YOURS. Entries will be archived and be made available as the Museum moves from virtual to real in the Village of Seneca Falls, NY, home of the Woman's Suffragette Movement and Women's Hall Of Fame.

For more information on the National Registry of Mothers or to stay updated on the Museum of Motherhood initiative please e-mail ARM and Mamapalooza at:,,

Writings on mothering wanted

WANTED: Your Stories (& Check out this MUST SEE film!)

MOTHER: THE JOB is launching a national multi-media exhibit in San Francisco this fall. The exhibit is another step in raising individual, societal and political consciousness of the need to value the work of mothers - all mothers - by implementing policies that help today's families live more balanced lives in the work place and in the home.

Your words will live in the "Hidden in Plain Sight" section of the exhibit - an entire floating wall covered with writings by mothers. The writings, placed side-by-side will create a faux mural at first glance, reminding us that the work of mothers is indeed "hidden in plain sight."

The stories will be reprinted from your original works sharing experiences of:
A) Sacrifices incumbent upon women during the child rearing years. This might include anything from career pursuits, to respect, to simply enjoying an hour alone.
B) The unique journey of child bearing and child rearing
C) Being the primary caregiver of a child in the absence of the birth mother.

All writings welcome - if you are a primary caregiver of a child, you are a mother!

It's fabulous! Don't miss it. View it now. To learn more about the entire exhibit log on to

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Disciplining myself

I said I'd do another post about my own discipline confessions. I did do some soul searching after my reading and I found 2 areas I really need to work on.

I'm guilty of using vague language. When playtime gets a little rough and I intervene, I shouldn't be saying "Play nice with your friends." How is a 2 year old supposed to know what nice means? Sounds obvious but I've said such words a bunch of times and once I started listening to other moms we're all guilty of that sort of language. Adverbs just weren't designed for little people. So I've started substituting descriptive language. "When we play with the train, it stays on it's tracks" in place of previous nondescript phrase. Harder than it sounds since it's requiring a bit of a phase shift in the mental patterns.

Also, I phrase requests to my 2 year old the same as I would to an adult. Good modeling but not so good at getting the actions I want. I start too many sentences with "Could you..." These are often not really requests such as "Could you come here so we can put your shoes on?" A fellow adult would see the need and not bat an eye but a snarky toddler sees the opening for a big debate. I'm trying to rephrase so that he either gets a command or real choices. So it's better when I say "I need you to come here so we can put your shoes on." Much clearer path to consequences and less opening for debate. Or, "We need to put your shoes on. Do you want to do it on the sofa or the chair?" So he gets some control but the shoes get on.

I'm sure in 6 months I'll have to reread all the books to work on a whole new stack of challenges but it at least gave me some things to work on and areas for improvement. I hope it pays off.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Martha meets NASA

This is an excerpt from Yes! Magazine that I thought was so nifty I'd circulate widely. To subscribe or support their work, visit their website

So, you’ve made the “green” energy-efficiency improvements to your home. Windows and doors are tightly sealed, and extra insulation keeps you in a comfy cocoon. But less drafty airflow can mean stale air at best, and toxic air at worst.

Here’s a “green” solution: houseplants.

Years ago, NASA scientists demonstrated that certain plants break apart the chemicals most commonly released by plastics, paints, synthetic carpets, and cleaning supplies.

Why are they such efficient air purifiers?

Most houseplants evolved in subtropical forests, where they received light filtered through the branches of taller trees. Because of this, their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize under relatively low light conditions, which allows them to process gases efficiently. Soil and roots also play a role. Microorganisms in the soil become more adept at using these materials as a food source as they are exposed to them for longer periods of time. Their effectiveness is increased if lower leaves that cover the soil surface are removed so there is as much soil contact with the air as possible.

It takes about 16 houseplants in 6- to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in a 1,800 square foot house. Some non-poisonous standouts from the NASA study: spider plant, golden pothos, peace lily, chinese evergreen, ficus, gerbera daisy, and rubber plant.

Various species were tested with trichloroethylene, used in dry cleaning, paints, lacquers, and adhesives; benzene, solvent in gasoline, paints, dyes, plastics, and foams; and formaldehyde, more common and more toxic, used in particle board, office furniture, household cleaners, fire retardants, and carpets.

This is how much of the contaminants were removed by plants from a sealed room in 24 hours:

Trichloroethylene Benzene Formaldehyde

Dracaena Massangeana
70% 21.4% 12.5%

Dracaena Deremensis
50 70 20
Ficus Benjamina
47.4 30 10.5
Peace Lily spacer
50 80 23
Golden Pothos
67 67 9.2
61 53 41

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Discipline discussion

So we had a very disciplined discussion this month.

The reading highlights that I did:

One of the standouts was Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky Bailey, PhD. It really emphasized good, clear communication skills that frankly I'm able to put to use at work as well as with my toddler. I did get a bit bogged down on how she's labeling her approach ie, the 7 powers for self control vs. the 7 discipline skills but within each it was concisely written and helpful. It reminded me of the work of Marshall Rosenberg. His Center for Nonviolent Communication is

Mary Sheedy Kurcinka has 2 books I read. I read Raising Your Spirited Child last year and found it insightful. For this group I read Kids, Parents and Power Struggles. There is a fair bit of overlap between the 2 books. She does rely heavily on personality type, trying to decipher both yours and your kids and adjusting your behavior appropriately. I think that will be of more value as my kid gets older.

See my previous post about Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen, PhD.

I did read some 'regular' discipline books such as Drawing the Line by Michael Weiss, PhD and Sheldon Wagner, PhD. Their whole book is easily summarized - any behavior you've identified as a problem is solved through as many short time outs as it takes to change the behavior. That just left me with wondering with what happens when your kid is physically too big to carry around? It didn't leave me feeling like it added to my skill set. Also, Dr. Karp's Happiest Toddler on the Block. I was underwhelmed by that one - poorly arranged and simplistic. Besides, I already have the happiest toddler on the block since I have the only one.

A good book list for more ideas is on the gentle discipline forum for Mothering magazine. You can join here.

So after all that reading I'm going to do another post next week about how I'm attempting to transform myself into WonderMom through better communication.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mothering Survey

My husband and I were both grad students once so I'm very sympathetic to student research. A woman, who's also a mom, in the School of Public Health at University of WA (full disclosure - my husband and I both have degrees from UW) is conducting a survey for her research.

Help all womankind by taking 10 minutes for fill out the survey here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

It's easy to rant that mothers and mothering is underrated but I think fathers and fathering gets even less credit, if that's possible.

While biologically everyone has a dad and you can write volumes about having an active, participatory, valued father, in practice they are often portrayed as an appendage. Beyond Ward Cleaver and unmagical Darren, even in this day and age fathers get about as much credit for raising their kids as the quintessential father's day gift -the hardly make or break wardrobe accessory - the necktie.

So go out and hug your own dad, or your kids' dad or the dad closest to you.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The challenge of time

I'm trying to use less gas, so I rode my bike to pick up older toad at daycare this week, which was a great way to get some exercise. Also I got to work my brain as I pedaled and I reflected on our cultural concept of time and its implications.

How we use the word is illustrative. As a mom; I make time, spend time, find time, feel if only I had time, manage my time and live for alone time. All those action words are a desperate plea to fit everything in. But what am I trying to fit in and who am I fitting it in for?

As moms we really specialize in slow time. Whoever knew it took 1/2 an hour to pee on the toilet or an hour to eat 1/2 cup of food? But we fight those forced slowdowns by turning around and speeding other things up; dinner in a box - fast, exceed the speed limit in our gas guzzling vehicles - fast like a cheetah as my nephew says.

Applying slow time to everything around us means caring for our communities and environment. Volunteering - takes times, biking - takes more time, water conservation - takes as much time as you'll put into it, improving your relationships - positively glacial.

Maybe it's worth a discussion to learn to prioritize our time.

Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, 1931, Collection of MoMA

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Worlds largest shuffleboard club now hosts moms group

We now have the distinction of being the worlds first moms group hosted by a shuffleboard club! Only in Florida, right.

The clubhouse offers lots of space, kitchen facilities, a stylish women's lounge and outside recreation of course.

I've got an idea for a nursing bra made of shuffleboard pucks, I think it will be highly stylish in black & pink.

The photo is from National Geographic, 1963.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Playful Parenting vs. straight up discipline

I'm reading Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen, Phd. It's a great read. Instead of the type of parenting book where you alternate between "duh, I'm not that stupid" & "no way with my kid" this one is really creative. I feel like I could put these principles into practice and get results.

I saw Dr. Cohen speak at the LLL Florida conference and last year and while I enjoyed his talk, I couldn't visualize putting his ideas into practice since Finn was just over a year and conflict was pretty minimal.

And the best part about it is it sounds fun. Rather than be the policeman and count seconds in time out, it's about how to use laughter and fun to work around an impasse. I really like the idea of being a parent, meaning the hopefully wiser adult, not the bad guy, so this really speaks to me.
His website is

Motherhood Manifesto - May 2008

A manifesto according to Webster's is "a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or an organization."

So the Motherhood Manifesto from calls for:

M - Maternity/Paternity leave
O - Open flexible work
T - TV we choose and other after-school programs
H - Healthcare for all kids
E - Excellent childcare
R - Realistic & fair wages

We watched the Motherhood Manifesto documentary and most of the discussion focused on the work/life balance issues above.

The week we had this meeting a report came out from Save the Children ranking the US 27th for mothers, down from 26 last year. You can read the press report here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Laundry - April 2008 topic

You might think it would be hard for a few people to talk about laundry for over 2 hours but it really isn't. It's such a continual chore, think how much time you actually spend DOING it!

So here's the review of the coolest parts.

Worried your neighbors know your 'dirtiest' secrets? They will if you hang your laundry on a clothesline. Here in Florida we have abundant sunshine and some of the strongest right to dry legislation in the nation. If you're laundry line curious visit Project Laundry List for all the dirt.

Soapnuts - What the heck are they?
Here are some websites that either sell them or provide good descriptions.

I haven't tried them yet, I'll post back when I get some. I need to let the detergent box get lower first. Also, I was going to see if I could sprout some. I've got a bunch of other tropical fruits in the yard so it's at least worth a try.

And a book I enjoyed on the topic was Field Guide to Stains by Virginia M. Friedman, Melissa Wagner & Nancy Armstrong. According to them baby food stains are "frequently found on clothing that surrounds the neck, arms or chest of the supervising adult. The splatter can range as far away as your back, pants, or socks, depending upon the projectile speed and direction in which the baby flings the food. The baby will most likely be covered in the stuff - the bib, intended to catch most of the food, often ends up being cast aside by the child early in the process, making it one of the cleaner garments. In these cases, baby's dress, shirt, or jumper collects most of the mess." While the descriptions are lighthearted the advice is solid and I'm sure I'll get good use out of it.

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