Saturday, January 23, 2010

Margaret Eats!

Margaret had her first taste of rice cereal today! (Ignore the daddy's shaky camera skills, the mommy's jammies, and the curtains on the floor - we're painting.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Proper Book Nook

As soon as I get my current projects wrapped up, I'm rewarding myself by painting the sitting room. I'm going with a camel on most of the walls. I've used Olympic's camel in the sitting room of every one of my homes. Our furniture and d├ęcor is so colorful that I'm afraid anything else would make the whole room busy, and it's such a smooth, creamy color.

I'm toying around with the idea of doing a different color in the window nook, though. We have a quart of Glidden's deepest woodland green (from that free paint giveaway they did this summer) that I think would complement our moss green loveseat.

I'm also thinking it might be fun to paper the nook in book pages. I've always said that I thought it'd be so cool to have an art museum where every art piece was simply a framed book page. This would be a (slightly) less eccentric way of seeing that dream realized. This site has some neat ideas in the same vein. I can't decide between using dictionary pages or ones from a favorite book like Little Women.

In other news, Margaret's laying on her playmat next to me. She keeps doing that breathing-in-squeal-thing that babies are so good at, to try to get my attention. When I look down at her, she grins and raises and lowers her eyebrows quickly with an expression that clearly says, "Come on, pick me up. You know you want to."

She is such a card lately. She's perfected a throaty growl, learned to put her paci in her mouth all by herself, and awards every sneeze of mine with big belly laughs.

Blocks and Bibs

I've been working on some new things for my Etsy (and Margaret, as she gets all of my practice items).

First up are some soft "sensory" blocks. I've been experimenting with different fabrics to really amp up the textural element. So far I've tried: flannel, felt, cotton, chenille, fleece, lace, tulle, net, corduroy, rib knit, and rayon. I put ribbon tags and loops on some, and jingle bells inside. Behold:

I'm selling them for $2 apiece on Etsy and $1 apiece with the friends and family discount.

I've also received a custom order for some sleeved bibs and splat mats. The customer and I worked back and forth to create some bibs to perfectly suit her daughter's needs. We added sleeves, a pocket that hits at tummy-height and stands out with boning to catch crumbs, made them extra long, gave them adjustable necks, and coordinated some really fun fabrics. I've finished half of the order so far and am just waiting on more fabric to be delivered. I'm using a designer laminated cotton that is just too awesome. (BPA- and phthalate- free!)

I tried one of the bibs on Margaret before the pocket was attached:

Meg's just a month away from solid foods and methinks I'll have to make her a few.

Here are the mats:

I'm selling these custom bibs and mats just about at cost to my customer in exchange for some recommendations to her friends. When I list them on Etsy, they'll be $12/bib ($10 for friends and family) and $15/mat ($12 friends and family).

Next up:
crinkly "taggie" blankets to coordinate with the blocks
appliqued name blocks

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I Learned on My Winter Vacation

When Margaret began trying to hold and play with her paci more than suck on it just before Christmas, we knew the fun was just beginning. Time for toys!

Now, I had been hearing whisperings of scary-sounding words like BPA, phthalates, bromine, lead, mercury, and arsenic for some time, but I'd never really taken the time to do much research. Partly because it all sounded vaguely alarmist to me, and partly because there was just so much conflicting information out there.

Research it I did, though, because... well, I have a lot of time on my hands. And the more research I did, the harder it was to ignore. Unfortunately, there are some pretty scary things in our kids' products (not to mention our own). And that's just not cool. Now, I'm not advocating we all leave our homes, move out to communes in the woods, and prance barefoot among the marigolds. I do think it's important that we can make informed decisions on what we purchase and consume, though. So I thought I'd share some of the stuff I've learned.

I started out by researching just what exactly these big baddies were. One website that really helped clear a lot of that up for me was According to them, some chemicals we might be concerned about are:

Lead - "Scientists have found there is no safe level of lead for children - even the smallest amount effects a child's ability to learn. Children are more vulnerable than adults to lead. Lead impacts brain development, causing learning and developmental problems including decreased IQ scores, shorter attention spans, and delayed learning. When children are exposed to lead, the developmental and nervous system consequences are irreversible. Nationwide, 310,000 children already have lead levels of concern. In addition to neurological damage, excessive amounts of lead can lead to muscle weakness, anemia, and kidney damage. While no conclusive proof that lead is a human carcinogen exists, laboratory testing in rats resulted in the development of kidney tumors in the animals. Additionally, the EPA has listed lead as a probable human carcinogen."

Bromine - "Studies in laboratory animals have found that PBDEs profoundly and permanently affect the developing brain at levels close to those in today's most highly exposed women. PBDE exposure may affect thyroid hormone, which is essential for proper brain development in the fetus. PBDEs may also cause reproductive problems and birth defects. DecaBDE, the most widely used form of PBDE, is classified as a "possible human carcinogen" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A 2005 study compared levels in people with those that cause toxic effects in laboratory studies, and found that approximately five percent of American women have levels that already exceed those that cause reproductive problems in laboratory animals."

Phthalates - "Phthalates are a group of chemicals, some of which have endocrine-disrupting properties, meaning that they can disturb normal hormonal processes, often at low levels of exposure. Exposure to phthalates is linked to birth defects of the genitals and altered levels of reproductive hormones in baby boys. An increased breast cancer risk is also suspected. Phthalates in building products have also been linked to asthma. Human testing by the federal government finds phthalates in almost all of the population, with the highest levels in children ages 6 to 11 years and in women. DINP (one type of phthalate) is commonly used as an additive in children’s toys. Studies have demonstrated possible links between DINP and adverse impacts on the reproductive system, kidneys, liver, and blood. In vitro maternal exposure to DEHP has been correlated to improper brain development in fetal rats. Exposure to DEHP can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors in the liver."

Cadmium - "Cadmium exposure is associated in animal studies with developmental effects, including possible decreases in birth weight, delayed sensory-motor development, hormonal effects, and altered behavior. Cadmium can cause adverse effects on the kidney, lung and intestines. Cadmium is classified as a known human carcinogen, associated with lung and prostate cancer. Exposure to cadmium can result in bone loss and increased blood pressure. Acute toxicity from ingestion of high levels of cadmium can result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and death."

Arsenic - "Inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. There is strong evidence that it is linked to lung, skin, and bladder cancer. Inorganic arsenic may also cause skin irritation, skin color changes, blood disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and hormone disruption. Preliminary data suggest that inorganic arsenic may interfere with normal fetal development and cause deficits in brain development and intelligence. Preliminary studies have correlated type 2 diabetes with low-level arsenic consumption, implying that drinking low levels of arsenic may lead to type 2 diabetes."

Mercury - "Mercury is a persistent toxic chemical that can build up in the body. All forms of mercury can affect the kidneys. Organic, inorganic, and metallic mercury are toxic to the nervous system, each affecting different regions of the brain."

HealthyStuff tests many toys and gives a breakdown of which of the above chemicals they contain. They also test for antimony, chromium, and tin. For our family, I'm less concerned about these chemicals right now.

Next, I found Zrecs. This is a great site that has many guides to children's products. They cover: BPA, phthalates, latex, lead, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

So what's the deal with these chemicals?

BPA - Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor, which can mimic the body's own hormones and may lead to negative health effects. Early development appears to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effects.

latex - Prolonged exposure to natural latex may increase chances of developing a latex allergy.

PVC - PVC itself isn't so much a problem as the fact that it often contains phthalates.

Zrecs also covers formaldeyhde, triclosan, flame retardants, PEGs, parabens, and sodium lauryl sulfate. Again, for now these aren't as large of concerns to me.

Lastly, I learned about different types of plastics. You know that little number inside the recycling symbol on the underside of most plastic items? Dude, that actually means something.

Good plastics:
1 - polyethylene terephthalate (PETE)
2 - high density polyethylene (HDPE)
4 - low density polyethylene (LDPE)
5 - polypropylene (PP)
7 - polyactic acid (*only when it says PLA*)

Bad plastics:
3 - vinyl (V)
6 - polystyrene (PS)
7 - polycarbonate (PC)

In addition, polyamide, silicone, nylon, and acrylic are ok. Dimethyl-, diethyl- and dibutyl-phthalate (DMP, DEP, DBP) are not. Jury's still out on melamine, but as far as I can tell, it's ok so long as it's not heated or scratched.

So this gave me a good jumping-off point on chemicals. I felt like I had a pretty good idea of which I was ok with entirely, which I wanted to moderate, and which were non-negotiable.

I read through the reviews on HealthyStuff and Zrecs, and I Googled around for contents on other products we owned or were looking at purchasing. Finally, I began emailing companies directly to ask their policies on potentially dangerous chemicals in their products.

Below are the lists I've compiled. I'm in the process of contacting each company to verify these facts. Those with an asterisk have been verified personally by the company.

BPA- and Phthalate-free:
Baby Bjorn
Baby Cie
Baby Sport
Bath and Body Works
Born Free
Elegant Baby
Emily Green
Ezee Reah
Green to Grow
Johnson and Johnson
Kid Co
Klean Kanteen
Mother's Milkmate
Mud Pie Baby
Not Neutral
Nurture Pure
ORE Originals
*Parent's Magazine toys - including packaging
Prince Lionheart
Rivadossi Sandro
Simple Green

Phthalate- and Lead-free:
Lisa LeLeu
Little Tykes
Melissa and Doug
Plan Toys
Publications International
Step 2
Tiny Love
Under the Nile
Vulli (some products do contain latex)

Offer some BPA- and phthalate-free options:
Dr. Browns
*Leap Frog - phthalate-free; phasing out PVC and BPA
*Luvable Friends - will check individual products through customer support
Manhattan Toy
*Munchkin - most products BPA-free; will check individual products through customer support
*Nuby - will email spreadsheet of product contents through customer support
*Sassy - will check individual products through customer support
Zak Designs

Offer many problematic products:
Baby Einstein
Especially for Baby
First Years
Fisher Price
Kid Kraft
Kids II
Mega Bloks
Phil and Teds
Second Nature
Tommee Tippee
*Vtech - contain less than 0.1% phthalates; denies health risks of BPA