Archive for Go outside!

SPF 101

Time to talk sunscreen!  We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about sun protection.  I guess summer really snuck up on us.  In March……

Anyway, everyone is looking for the sun protection that will be safest for their little one.  It is often assumed that you should NOT use sunscreen on babies under 6 months.   But, the American Academy of Pediatrics now states that sunscreen is probably safe to use on younger children, especially if you just use it on small areas of your baby’s skin that are exposed to the sun and not protected by clothing, such as the infant’s hands and face.   The issue with sunscreens (and really any body-care product) is that baby’s skin absorbs chemicals so well and their bodies are so tiny, they get a larger “dose” of sunscreen than we do as adults.  Also, they put everything in their mouth.  At the beach, they will be eating sand, chewing on driftwood, and sucking on their hands and feet.  And ingesting a little dose of whatever sunscreen we slathered them with.   So, we have to be thoughtful with we are “dosing” them with.

There are two main types of sunscreen.  Chemical sunscreens work by soaking into your skin and absorbing the UV rays.  Their active ingredients can include Octinoxate, Avobenzone,  etc.   Physical sunscreens work by sitting on top of your skin and scattering the UV rays.  Their active ingredients usually include Titanium dioxide (TiO2) or Zinc oxide (ZnO).

Many people feel more comfortable with physical sunscreens for their babies and children.  In fact, almost all sunscreen specifically branded as “baby” or “kid” are physical sunscreens containing Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide.  These ingredients are absorbed less through the skin.  They are potentially less toxic than other ingredients.  Also, they are more “visible” on the skin and make it harder to “miss a spot”.

I also think it is important to pay attention to the “inactive ingredients” in sunscreens as well.  Be aware of what preservatives, fragrances, creams, etc are being used.  These are all ingredients that will be absorbed and/or ingested.  Along with all that sand…….. I like to look at ingredient lists and understand most of what I am reading.  I know I’m not a chemist.  I probably won’t understand everything.  Or be able to pronounce anything.  And, really, everything is a chemical.  Water is a chemical.  Olive oil is a chemical.  But they’re pretty natural chemicals.

At Mom and Pop Place, we carry physical sunscreens for kids from Kiss My Face.  They are natural, fragrance-free, SPF 30, water-resistant, and pretty darn safe.  They contain Zinc Oxide and Titanium dioxide to scatter UV rays.  They also contain things like sunflower seed oil, green tea leaf extract, carrot root extract, and mango seed butter.  They do NOT contain PABA, phthalates, artificial colors, or sodium benzoate*.

So, protect your little one as best you can.  The best sunscreen is common sense.  Stay in the shade, get a wide-brimmed hat, avoid the high-noon rays.  When you decide to use a sunscreen, do a little research to find one you like.   Find a company you trust.  Read the ingredients list.  If something concerns you, look it up.  Ask your friends.  Ask us.  Then go outside!


*Did you say “sodium benzoate”?  I’m glad you asked!  That reminds me………we no longer carry any products from California Baby.  Sad, because they used to be our go-to source for safer sunscreens.  But they started changing their ingredients and their formulas.  And not being totally up front about it.  They added the preservative sodium benzoate to several of their products.  That, by itself, would not have been enough for them to lose our business.  Many products need preservatives.  Most people have no problem with sodium benzoate.  But some people do.  And when people started asking California Baby about their formula changes, they were not up-front about it.  They were not respectful of their loyal customers.  They completely disregarded the small (non-Target) companies that built them.  Frankly, they have always been a nightmare to deal with on our end.  Poor customer service, slow ship times, lost orders, no way to reach a real-live-actual person in their office………….but they were California Baby.  Our customers loved their stuff.  We love our customers.  We felt we could at least trust their products whether we liked their office staff or not.  But, when I read the “dialogue” on their Facebook page about the formula changes (which they have now deleted), my choice was pretty clear.  Goodbye California.  Thanks for asking……


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Cut and Paste Chicken

Well, it’s spring.  And I’m blogging about my chickens.  It seems to happen every year.  I should just cut and paste my post from last time.  But, I can’t help it!

(I do blog more about my kids than about my chickens, though.  I checked my Tag Cloud.)

Every spring, we have our first warm sunny day, and I open up the doors to the coop, and the girls come bursting out into the sunlight, and spend the next joyful hours “discovering” the world outside.  That they forgot was there.  Because it’s been a long winter.  And they are really pretty stupid.  But I love them for that too……….

This time, when I burst into their coop with my pitchfork (another sign of their lack of intelligence is that they’re not at all fazed by being awoken by a girl holding a pitchfork) I found a lovely surprise waiting for me.  6 eggs!  6 tiny almost ridiculous eggs from our 2 tiny almost ridiculous birds………but I was so excited!  They stop laying in the winter.  The days are too short, the coop is too cramped, their energy goes entirely into staying alive in the cold.  These eggs are a joyful sign!  A sign of light and warmth and survival.  36 more of these tiny eggs and I’ll have enough for an omelet………

So, I mucked out the coop, the girls scratched around the yard, I collected the eggs.  I had a few bittersweet moments of remembering the girl that didn’t make it through the winter.  It’s a miracle this bird even made it into the winter.  Tessa was the wrong kind of chicken.  Tessa was a broiler.  Broilers are bred to get so huge so fast, that they are ready to slaughter in 45 days.  We did not do our research.  We saw the world’s most adorable puffy yellow chick and had to have her.  She was so cute you wanted to eat her up………….my point exactly.

OMG she's so cute she's sitting on my hand I don't even care if she poops on me I want her to live in my house forever and ever and ever!!!!!!!!

Um, guys? What happened to Tessa? Why can't she walk? Why did we think it was a good idea to buy a chick from Tractor Supply? That they usually only sell in packs of 30?

Tessa was a good girl.  She made it way past the 45 days.  But she didn’t make it past winter.  I don’t think she had an unhappy life.  She ate and drank and scratched.  She did sit around a lot.  Her legs weren’t strong enough to haul her broiler-ness around for very long at one stretch.  But she got to sit in the sun.  And chase bugs from where she sat.  She gave it up in January.  (I don’t blame her.  January makes me want to give it up most years too…….)  We buried her in the garden.  Which is one (and possibly the only) perk of global warming: we were able to dig a hole in the non-frozen ground even in January.

So, we’re down to 3 girls.  In Neenah, you’re allowed to have 4 hens.  So, we’ll be getting a chick again this spring.   Again, she will be so cute we will let her sit on our hands and poop in our house.  Again, we will spend the first few months praying that she is really a “she” and not a rooster (which would have to go find a “nice home in the country”, like Sasquatch).  Again, we will just want to eat her up!  But, we won’t.  Because, this time, she will NOT be a broiler from Tractor Supply.

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My boys are fishermen now. Grandpa bought them their own fishing poles, brought them to the lake, and taught them the joys of throwing expensive lures into trees and weeds and each other’s hair.  And they are absolutely obsessed!  They each got their own tackle box (with their own money).  And they each have their own pole  (one of them is already on Pole 2.0).  They have even started reading old Field and Stream back-issues Shiloh brings home from his waiting room.  Here’s a picture of Gage after the caught the biggest perch I’ve ever seen in Lake Winnebago.  Granted, I’ve only seen 2 non-breaded perch in my life.  But it looks pretty big.  My boy has some fish-catching skills!  He’s still working on his fish-touching skills though.  That’s his friend Sam actually holding the fish.

We pulled this beauty out of the channel near our house.  I can’t tell you what kind of fish it was.  Solon said it was a striped bass.  And he’s usually right.  All I know is that it seemed like a very nice fish, but pretty angry.  Shiloh was working late that night, so that’s my hand you see.  Actually touching an angry fish.    This was early in our fishing experience, so the boys had not yet developed any worm-touching or fish-touching skills.  It was a busy, slimy night for me.

I brought Solon and Gage to Gander Mountain for the very first time.  The overwhelming selection of bait and lures rendered them catatonic for awhile.  Once they came to, they got busy choosing the biggest, spinniest, most shark-like lures they could find.  For catching sheephead off the dock in Menasha.  It’s all good.  They were so excited by the selection, I let them choose whatever they wanted as long as it was under $10.  Solon also chose giant rubber crawfish that smell like butt and pepper.

Solon has learned to bait his own hook.  I’m so proud.  Here he is impaling a worm on a bloody hook in order to catch a fish that he will immediately throw back.  So as not to make it suffer.

I’m very proud of my fishermen.  Fishing such a wholesome, nostalgic summer activity.  I love it that they can’t wait to get out on the water as soon as Dad gets home.  I love that they know where Walleye like to feed and what bait to use for panfish and how to tie on a lure so it won’t fly away on the first cast.  If I could get either one of them to actually eat fish, even in stick form, I’d feel like we’re making progress.

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I think that most parents have a special little song they sing with their children.  Maybe it’s a tune they made up using their baby’s name, maybe it’s a favorite soothing lullaby,  maybe it’s a silly song they learned as a child themselves.  I know that my husband,  Shiloh, and I had a very special song that we sang to our oldest son, Solon.  We started before he was even born and we continued well into the preschool days.  It was always the same song that would soothe his boo-boos and help him fall asleep and ease the pain of long car trips……….a tender, heartfelt lullaby:

“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

See, nothing says “Parents of The Year” like a lullaby that includes a dozen references to illegal gambling, glorifies whiskey-drinking,  and fondly recalls someone dying in his sleep.  Aaaaah, the golden memories of childhood………..

It all started in a moment of pre-natal, hormone-induced weepiness.  I was reading a baby book one night (like every night the previous 16 months) when I realized, in a rush of horror,  that my husband was not  bonding with our fetus!  He couldn’t know the beauty and awe of growing a brand-new human being inside yourself!  He didn’t get to share the kicks and hiccups that were an endearing reminder of the bond I shared with our unborn child.  He didn’t even get to experience the vomiting and heartburn that made the whole thing so magical.  So, I turned to him in tears and loudly cried, “You never sing to the baby!”  At which point, I dissolved into ugly sobs of accusation.

Shiloh sighed and gave me a loving look pf patient bewilderment.  His smile said “I love you, crazy woman.” but his eyes said “I have no idea what’s happening right now.”  Anyway, he weighed his options, took a deep breath, leaned in towards my huge belly, and started singing…………”On a warm summer’s eve, on a train bound for nowhere………”  And he proceeded to sing the entire song, verses, chorus, and all.  It was the most beautiful thing I ever heard.  You have to remember, Shiloh is the least musical person I have ever met.  I don’t even know how we ended up together.  He can’t clap the beat to a song even if I hold his hands and clap them for him.  He constantly leaves my car radio tuned to a country station.  And he knows the words to exactly 3 songs:

1. The Gambler

2. Amen (which technically only has one word)

3.  Silent Night

(He thinks he knows the words to “On Wisconsin” too, but you really only need the first four words to this song, the rest is just fist-pumping.)

So, the fact that he choose The Gambler to be Solon’s theme song is no real commentary on his feelings about impending parenthood.  It was the most appropriate song he knows.  And it’s beautiful.  We sang it to Solon each night before he was born and we sang it at the hospital on his first day of life.  I rocked him to sleep hundreds of times with that song.  I could feel his tense little body melt into my arms every time I started singing.  I would sing the song at the top of my lungs as he screamed in his car seat on long trips.  The Gambler was HIS song.  We tried using it on Gage a few years later, but it backfired.  Cuz every time I tried to sing Gage to sleep with it,  Solon would join in loudly from the other room and scare the baby.  So Gage got a rotating succession of Indigo Girls tunes for his lullaby.

Anyway………..the boys got older.  My hormones let up.  Naptime become a non-battle.  Gradually The Gambler faded out of use.

But earlier this summer, as my extended family sat around the campfire at the lake house, Shiloh started singing The Gambler.  Loudly.  It was totally out of the blue.  (Actually, it was out of a woodsmoke and beer-induced spiral descent into well-deserved vacation mode).  The adults all smiled, remembering nostalgically those baby days.  The days of walking the floors with a feverish baby or rocking a little one to sleep when the rest of the world was already sleeping.  But, by the time Shiloh had reached the first chorus that night by the campfire, Solon had joined in!  I think he surprised himself by knowing all the words to a song he doesn’t ever remember hearing.  It triggered something buried deep in his 10-year-old memory.  He had that same bewildered look on his face of “I have no idea what’s happening right now” that Shiloh gave me all those years back.

Shiloh and Solon went on lie together in the hammock and sing the song at least 20 more times at the top of their lungs.  I’m sure all the lake neighbors appreciated it.  I don’t know because I went to bed after the second round.  But the fact that I could sleep with all that howling going on speaks to the power of The Gambler………

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Set in Stone

My kids and I drove past our old house in Appleton last week.  It’s funny how rarely we get over in that neck of the woods.  It’s only 5 miles away from where we live now, but it feels like another world!   We moved to our current house in Neenah 6 years ago and we love it.  It’s definitely “home”.  But there is a lot of nostalgia for that “old”  house:  it was our first house, our first yard, our first mortgage.  Both of our kids were born there.  (Well, they were born in hospitals nearby, but you know what I mean).  So, driving through that old neighborhood brings back such emotion.

Gage doesn’t remember the house.  He was only 18 months when we moved.  But Solon remembers.  In fact, he didn’t want to move.  For the first year, he got sad every time he thought about his old Appleton house.  It was the only home he had ever known.  And for a long time, our Neenah house didn’t feel very homey.  It was all spiders and moldy carpet.  And exposed wires.  At least now the moldy carpet is gone.

So, we drove past our old house.  The boys saw the windows of their old rooms.  They saw the perennial gardens that mom planted.  They saw the backyard where they used to swim naked in the kiddie pool (I have pictures).  They saw the screen door that Daddy installed all by himself.  My kids saw all this stuff.  But all I saw was walls.  Two beautiful stone retaining walls.  That were still so. damn. straight.

The old Appleton house was where I discovered gardening.  I loved planting perennials and flowers and herbs.  I grew seeds and made compost and cultivated raised beds and fantasized about flowers all winter long.  Don’t get me wrong, I was a terrible gardener.  I still am.  I’m a Darwinian waterer: I only want my fittest  plants to survive.  I’m a very forgiving weeder.  What’s a “weed”, anyway?  Dandelions are so pretty!   But I still love having gardens.  And at my old house I wanted MORE gardens.  We had a small lot and a sloping front yard.  I decided that, if I had retaining walls in the front, I would have even MORE room to grow weeds.  I mean, have a garden……… For those of you who know anything about my life in 2004, you know that these retaining walls were not going to get built by the traditional wall-building member of our family.  Poor Shiloh was a little…………busy.  (Poor guy.  This was still a year before they actually passed laws saying it was ILLEGAL to force a person to be that busy………but, once again, that’s a whole other post).  So, I decided that I was gonna build me some walls.  This was a huge undertaking.  I studied books for months.   I examined gravel.   I collected tools.  I sought the advice of my Dad, who is famous around central Wisconsin for the blinding straightness of his retaining walls.  I took at least 12 trips to Home Depot to pick up stones since there’s only so much you can haul in the trunk of a Nissan Altima with two screaming children.

That brings me to the most important part of my story: the screaming children.  Those of you with small children who have every tried to get anything exciting done (like peeing or unloading the dishwasher) know what I’m talking about.  These walls were only gonna get built over the course of several weeks in short 21-minute sessions between breastfeedings and butt-wipings.  My kids were 2 years old and 6 months old.  These are not helpful ages when it comes to masonry.  So, I planned around naps and playdates and that one day in July when Shiloh had an afternoon off.  I even did a little building in the dark.  And the rain.

But build it, I did.  And I felt like a superwoman.  Honestly, I think I (like most moms) already was a superwoman: I clipped coupons for tampons and drew maps of garage sale routes every Friday to save a few dimes, I remembered every birthday in my in-laws family and forged my husband’s name on the cards, I grew two human beings from scratch, for God’s sake!  But none of that made me feel as powerful as building those walls.  If you need tangible proof of your superwoman-ness, there’s nothing more tangible than stone.  When we drove past our old house last week, I noticed that the paint was peeling and the front steps were pretty crumbly.  The gardens looked like a Costa Rican jungle.  But those walls were still so. damn. straight.  Super-humanly straight.

My super-woman status is set in stone.

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What’s in a name?

Reasons I Might be a Soccermom:

1.  I am at soccer practice and/or games 3 nights each week.

2.  I am on friendly terms with the staff at Soccer Locker.

3.  I carry folding camp chairs and a case of juice pouches in my trunk at all times, including an extra chair in case a teammate’s parent forgets one.

4.  I ordered a team photo package that included buttons with my sons’ soccer pictures on them.

5.  I know what Offside means.

6.  I know the names of each kid on my son’s team.

Reasons I Might NOT be a Soccermom (or might be a Bad Soccermom):

1.  My boys play on a recreational team and not a competitive team.  Competitive soccer seems to involve more traveling than I am up for.  We had to drive to Town of Menasha once a week for practice and even that annoyed me.

2.  I didn’t own folding camp chairs until 6 weeks ago and I spent the first 4 games of the season sitting on cold wet grass.

3.  I don’t drive a minivan (see previous posts regarding the likelihood of my getting a new van), but I do drive a sensible Camry/Subaru/Honda-type car that fits right in at Soccer Jamboree.

4.  I ordered the photo buttons, but I will not wear them.  I will save them and give them to my sons’ future wives for ridicule value (just as my mother-in-law did for my husband).

5.  I lied before. I don’t really know what Offside means, but one of my kids does.  And I’m close.  One more season and I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

6.  I only know all the names of the kids on the team that was required to put their names on their jerseys.  The name-optional team……not so much.  Again, one more season and I’m sure I’ll figure it out.

I don’t know.  It seems like many of the things you do as a “soccermom” are just things you do as a regular “mom”.  You haul your kids around to their events.  You make sure they get a snack.  You get to know their friends and their friends’ parents.  You buy them the gear they need.  You cheer for them no matter how they’re doing.  You make sure you have a comfy place to sit while you wait for them.  That’s motherhood.  And I love it.  Call me a soccermom if it helps you label me.  But, can we call it SokkermÖm instead?  That seems edgier.

So, you tell me.  Am I a soccermom?  Is there still hope?

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Life Lessons Learned

Try to ignore the flat screen above the door. We did.

My family and I just got back from our Ramos Road Trip 2010.  I wanted to take the kids to the Rockies, but we decided that was just too much driving (thanks Laureen).  Instead, we drove south through Illinois and Indiana and camped in the woods of Kentucky for 4 nights.  Ok,  so our “camping” involved hot running water and Direct TV.  But I know you would never judge me for that.  It did involve unpleasant smells and vermin, so it was almost like real camping.

I like vacation.  I like it for the obvious reason that it’s a chance to rest and relax. (Although, despite practice, I’m not very good at either of those things.)  But I mostly like our vacations as a chance to build memories and to learn things about your country and about yourself.

Our cabin came with the important essentials.

You learn about history and geography when you stop at State Historical Sites.  But you also learn a lot about humanity by stopping at scary Interstate truck stops.  And by (accidentally) stopping in Gary.  These are the life lessons I take away from vacations.

The view from our hotel.

1. I learned that every bad thing I have heard about Gary, Indiana is true.  My apologies to Michael Jackson and anyone else from Gary.  What an  indescribably depressing place.  We accidentally stopped there at 10PM on our drive south.  The hotel desk clerk warned us not to leave anything in our car overnight “cuz someone stoled his shotgun right out his truck last night.”

2.  I learned that here are a shocking number of McDonald’s between Wisconsin and Kentucky.  And we actually stopped at a shocking number of McDonald’s (9) on our 6-day trip.  Don’t judge.  A girl needs coffee.  And southwest chicken salad.

3.  I learned that Neenah really needs a Chick-fil-A.  But not a Waffle House.

I swear we didn't actually eat this. I just took a picture in the camp store.

4.  I learned that there exist entire “dry” counties where you can’t buy alcohol.  And that these counties are usually very large and not worth driving out of at 9PM to get a beer.  Except on your 4th night of camping and eating camp food.

5. I learned that Kentucky has a confused time zone identity.  Whatever time zone Kentucky is in,  Louisville is in a different time zone.  Mammoth Cave National Park has tons of signs warning us that it is in Central Time Zone.  Which we thought we were in already.  I asked the worker at our campground what Time Zone we were in .  He said he didn’t know.  So, I asked him what time it was.  He said he didn’t know.  I left it at that.  The clock at the Ranger Station said 5:20.  My iPhone said 6:20.  The clock in our cabin said 3:47……..

6. I learned that 6-year-olds only care a little bit about the Civil War.  And that 9-year-olds do not care at all about the Civil War.  People in their 30’s are newly fascinated by the Civil War.  And people in their 90’s that you meet in the parking lot stopped caring either way about that war.

I had to bribe him with chicken McNuggets to get him to smile. But he's 9 and it's a Civil War mural, so this was the best he could do.

The Green River through Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

7.  I learned that Kentucky is really beautiful, with green rolling hills and a rich, fascinating history.  Wisconsin is beautiful too.  The more I travel, the more I appreciate Wisconsin.   Indiana is….. meh.  Indiana does have a lot of windmills.  And colleges.  I guess Indianans aspire to bigger, more beautiful things……..

8.  I learned that Subey-stores are worth 20 points and that Subey-commercials are worth 10 points.  This is VERY important.  And watch out for pseudo-Subey-stores.  They’ll wipe you out.  (See previous blog post.)

8.  I learned that sometimes the best part of going on vacation is the drive home.

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