Have a Red, White and GREEN Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is the time to kick back, relax and enjoy the summer fun. As you celebrate the Fourth of July this year and kick back some brews in honor of our nation’s birthday, keep in mind that celebrations don’t have to take a toll on Mother Earth. Here are a few easy ways to begin getting some green in with your red, white and blue.

Tip #1: Greener Grilling

With all the barbecues that will be lighting up on Thursday, choosing the right grill and accessories can make a big impact. There are a variety of sustainably-produced charcoal briquettes out there as well as propane grills, which produce close to half the emissions of generic charcoals.  When it comes to the cuisine, resist the temptation to buy conventional hot dogs and hamburgers. Opt for organic products from your supermarket, or seek out local, grass-fed meats from a farmer’s market. Buying locally is a great way to better educate yourself on what you’re putting into your mouth and it supports your local economy.

Tip #2: Skip the Plastic and Disposables

Both plastic and styrofoam are the staples of picnics, parades and barbecues, unfortunately consuming virgin resources and creating heaps of heartache for our exponentially expanding landfills. One of the easiest things you can do to go green is to reach for biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery when you’re shopping for your soiree this week. Other alternatives include reusable bamboo dinnerware and flatware and cloth napkins, rather than their paper counterpart.

Tip #3: Organic Beer, Anyone?

Though it may not be a popular choice at first, choosing beer made with organic hops, malt and barley reduces the need for toxic pesticides that harm the soil and contaminate our waters. Organic beer is available at organic and natural food retailers.

Tip #4: Add Some Mood Lighting

Rather than keeping on the regular lights, opt for solar lamps and lanterns. This is a great way to add some ambience without impacting your electricity bill. Set them out in the sun for the day and when the sun goes down, you’ll have the perfect setting for a moonlit dance party!

Tip #5: Pick Up and Recycle

After the festivities commence, there is bound to be plenty of cans, bottles, plates, and forks filling your trash cans. Instead of digging through bags after party-goers exit (ew!), have some trash cans designated for trash and recyclables. Recycle all that you can – the environment will thank you!

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Top Strollers for Your Family

Shopping for a baby stroller can be a complicated task, comparable to shopping for a car. When choosing the proper equipment, there are many things to consider. Before you begin the shopping process, make decisions about the specific features you are looking for to suit your family’s lifestyle. Are you looking for an easily folding, space-saver? Do you require cup holders and lots of room for snacks? Will you be jogging with your stroller, calling for particular tires and lights? Will you be bringing you stroller to the park or beach? Below are the top strollers of 2013, based on particular characteristics.

Top Classic Stroller

The Maclaren Triumph is a practical, functional, classic stroller choice for active parents. It is lightweight, easy to fold, and has simple, but efficient features. The stroller is durable and great for storing away in trunks of cars and closets. You can find the MacLaren Triumph at BabiesRUs.com for $185.

Top Techie Stroller

Technology is constantly evolving, even for baby strollers. For all you techies out there, the 4moms.com Origami, an easily collapsible stroller, is an incredible machine. With the push of a button, the Origami folds down instantly. It has a weight sensor to avoid folding while your baby is strapped in and is equipped with lights for nighttime strolls. Additionally, this stroller is equipped with an LCD screen that monitors speed, pace, and temperature. Lastly, you can even charge your phone! The $850 price is a little steep, but not for the incredible features offered.

Stroller for Two

If you have twins, you can do one of two things. If you’ve got an extra pair of hands, you can buy two single-seaters for each of your kids; however, it might make more sense to buy one with two seats. The best baby stroller for twins of 2013 is the Orbit Baby Double Helix. The $750 stroller has rotatable seats, so your twins can either face towards or away from each other. This stroller can also be transformed into a single -eater for outings with just one of your children. The Orbit Baby Double Helix is fashionable and functional for your twins.

Top Lightweight Stroller

If you are looking for something light and easily transportable, with less features but more mobility, the Quinny Yezz is a wonderful option. The Quinny Yezz weighs only 11 pounds and is designed to easily fold and store. This is an excellent stroller for a very active lifestyle and won’t break the bank at $279. Complement the Quinny Yezz with BeachBaby Towa’Round, a universal stroller accessory that attaches to the front of your stroller, making it easy to pull the vehicle over rough terrain or through sand.

Top Jogging Stroller

If you love to run, job, walk, or engage in exercise and activities with your child, the Baby Jogger City Elite is an excellent option. The larger wheels make for a smooth ride and can hold up to 75 pounds. With roomy compartments for snacks, toys, and anything else you can think of, the Baby Jogger City Elite is practical for active parents and kids. It costs $812 and can be found on Amazon.com.

Whatever amenities you seek, comfort and safety for your child are always priorities.  Make sure to do your research to find the most practical, wonderful stroller for your family.

Resources for This Article:

“Top 10 Strollers.” The Bump. n,p,, n.d. Web. 18 June 2013.

 

Blog written by Rebecca Eisenberg. View more of Rebecca’s work here.

5 Tips for Saving Money on Family Summer Travel

Summer is arguably the best season of the year. The weather is warm and the kids are out of school. Now is the perfect time for a family vacation. Vacations are expensive, especially with kids thrown into the mix, but you can keep the cost down by planning ahead, doing research, and getting creative. You can start by saving money in advance with a savings account or certificate of deposit, but that’s only the beginning. Here are five kid-friendly budgeting tips to help you plan your next vacation.

1. Buy your own food, snacks and drinks

It’s fun to eat out when you’re on vacation, but if you have to do it for every meal, it’s time consuming, expensive and exhausting. You can save money and time by buying your own meal ingredients at a local grocery store. If your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchen or a mini-fridge (or won’t let you rent one), you can still stock up on kid-friendly snacks like cereal, granola bars, peanut butter, and even fresh goodies like apples, bananas and oranges. You can even bring a small cooler with you to store vegetables and cold items.

2. Pack light

We know this is difficult to do with kids, but consider yourself warned: any extra bags may cost you. If you’re traveling by car, extra bags translate to lost visibility and legroom, but if you’re flying, you may literally have to pay more for your extra bags. Many airlines have started charging fees for checked bags, and since they aren’t displayed in the ticket prices, they can easily catch you off guard. Be sure to research airline fees in advance, or pick an airline that lets you check bags for free. Southwest offers two free checked bags per person, and JetBlue offers one. Stay away from Sprint and Allegiant, sine they charge for checked bags and carry-on bags.

3. Consider your sanity

Sometimes the cheapest travel options aren’t the most kid friendly. For example, you might save money on plane tickets by booking an early flight, or opting for a layover, especially if you’re traveling abroad. But, before you book, ask yourself: is it worth the extra stress? Imagine trying to rush your sleep-deprived kids and spouse (and yourself) out of the house to catch a bargain red-eye flight. If you can afford something more convenient, you should probably just pay for it.

4. Take public transit 

Depending on your destination, public transportation may not be an option. However, if you’re traveling in a big city, public transportation can be a fun and cost-effective way to explore with your kids. Imagine exploring New York by subway or San Francisco by cable car. These types of excursions can be especially exciting for small children. If you’re traveling cross-country, you may also want to consider taking a train. Trains are slow (especially in America), but you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery along the way. Plus, you and your restless kids can get up and walk around anytime without disturbing the other passengers.

5. Get outside

Kids are full of energy. Use that as an excuse to explore the local parks on your next vacation.  If you’ve rented a car, consider making a trip to a nearby national park or beach, or keep it simple and explore the city parks in your area. Everyone knows that the West Coast is perfect for nature lovers, but did you know that New Mexico, Maryland and Virginia are great destinations for park lovers too? Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon exploring your neighborhood, wherever you are.

How to Discipline Kids: What I’ve Learn

Recently, my sister and her two children came to Long Beach to pay a visit to my family. Their weeklong stay was filled with excitement, activity, and laughter! Unfortunately, happiness wasn’t the only thing that filled these seven days. My son, Ethan, normally a very happy and well-behaved child, suddenly became a midnight terror. Relentlessly running around and hitting his cousins, Ethan persevered without remorse. I realized that my child was in need of some serious discipline.

Does this sound like you: You know that what you’re doing isn’t really working, but you’re not sure how to make things better. Rest assured, that’s okay—you’re not supposed to know all the answers. Many parents have a hard time being consistent and struggle because of guilt, self-doubt, or just sheer exhaustion.

Here’s the good news—you can overcome the obstacles you face. Even if you think you’ve been inconsistent up to this point with your child, it’s never too late to change. Let’s take a look at why it’s important and how you can start being more consistent right away.

 

Why Consistency is Important

No one can be 100% consistent 100% of the time, but what happens when you’re frequently inconsistent? You’ll find that your child’s behavior will get worse—and you’ll be more tired and worn down as a result.

Why is consistency important for kids? Children need to know what to expect because it helps them make informed decisions. As they grow, they learn that certain behaviors lead to certain outcomes. Children need boundaries to understand what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. Inconsistency doesn’t set boundaries…it creates wiggle room. And wiggle room leads to potential bad behavior.

To make matters worse, there’s a good chance you’ll be seen as less of an authority when you’re not consistent. This is because you might say one thing, like “Don’t swear,” but fail to consistently back that up with actions that show you mean it, such as providing a meaningful and effective consequence each and every time. When your child gets the message that you don’t mean what you say, what you say starts to lose meaning.

 

Why Staying in Control is Important

The key to staying in control when your child is having a meltdown is to try to keep your composure even when your blood is reaching a boiling point. You have to control your emotions. Violence only breeds violence and what your child sees and feels may spur the same kind of actions towards others.

 

Why Moving from Punishment to Love is Important

There is an excellent parenting book by Alfie Kohn called Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason. One basic need all children have, Kohn argues, is to be loved unconditionally, to know that they will be accepted even if they screw up or fall short. Yet conventional approaches to parenting such as punishments (including “time-outs”), rewards (including positive reinforcement), and other forms of control teach children that they are loved only when they please us or impress us. Show your child that you still love them, although you may be disciplining their actions. After their punishment, return to being the open and loving parent that you are.

Lastly, BREATHE! Remind yourself that you are doing the most challenging thing in the world – you are raising a human being. Laugh and have fun! Don’t take things too seriously.

 

Avoiding Toxic Products for Your Kids

One would expect that the toys our children are exposed to are safe. Moms have enough to worry about without the notion that their kids are handling products containing hazardous, disease-causing carcinogens. However, tragically, there are a shocking amount of manufactured goods containing harmful levels of toxins such as lead and cadmium. Selecting nontoxic products for your children is absolutely imperative to maintain a long, healthy, and happy childhood. Reading up on toy safety is important to keep up with the nontoxic toy trends and provide your child or children with fun, reliable merchandise.

To give you an overview of hazardous chemicals often found in toys, there are three major contributors. Lead is a very toxic element that can lead to serious health problems. When it is absorbed (by inhaling or swallowing it, in most cases), it spreads throughout the body, acting as a poison wherever it is dispersed. Most of the time, lead damages bone, negatively affecting the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Presently, most of the lead used in the manufacturing of toys has been replaced by cadmium, which is also detrimental to child health. Cadmium has been known to weaken bone structure, negatively impact kidney function, and slow brain development. Phthalates are another issue. This chemical is used to create flexibility or soften hard plastic in toys and is known to damage hormone development. Along with these poisonous contaminants, it is important to beware of small pieces that your child could possibly choke on, such as magnets. Unfortunately, studies have shown certain toys to have choking misinformation or ambiguous warnings. Magnets and small pieces accidentally swallowed can lead to suffocation and intestinal blockages. In order to avoid these pollutants in your children’s toys, there are specific actions you can take.

To name a few tricks to keep your loved ones out of harm’s way, be extremely careful of what you buy. Educate yourself about toy safety and the products you buy. It is important to understand that certain toys are more dangerous than others. Read up on parenting blogs that support nontoxic products, such as BB Waters’ site: http://www.bbwaters.com. This is an excellent resource to answer your toxicity-related questions and explore opinions and information from like-minded, caring parents. BB Waters’ newest creation is a must-have stroller accessory, transforming your beach experience into a total breeze. The BeachBaby Towa’Round fastens to your child’s stroller, allowing you to effortlessly navigate through the sand. All products featured on the site are eco-friendly and 100% nontoxic.

If you can, try and purchase natural products such as unpainted wood. Avoiding plastics is a huge step in the right direction, steering clear of lead and phthalates. Additionally, more naturally made, nontoxic toys last longer and will save you time and money in the long run. Also relating to the importance of buying naturally crafted toys, stay away from low-cost, plastic jewelry, frequently known for containing both lead and cadmium.

Buy your toys selectively, putting your child’s best interest first. Use this information to contribute to the overall wellbeing of your family.

Sources for this article:

“Cleaner Living: Non-Toxic Toys for the Holidays.” MomsRising.org. CT Working Moms. Web. 31 May 2013.

 

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Blog written by Rebecca Eisenberg. View more of Rebecca’s work here.