Saturday, August 27, 2011

4 Months Old

Wow! I am feeling so out of the blogging loop lately! I went back to work for the first time in close to 4 months and boy has it shook my world up a bit! I plan on posting more about my life as a working mom in the upcoming weeks, but for now I've just got tons of fun pictures collecting dust on my computer here of my baby girl just waiting to be posted.  So here we go!

Check out that chin and those hands
reaching for the camera!

This past week Avery celebrated her 4 month birthday! I love how I call it a "birthday," like there was a cake and gifts or something.  But really since she's our first child we do go a bit overboard each month and "celebrate" the best way we (or should I say I) know how: by taking lots and lots of pictures.  Anyways, you know the "birthday drill": break out the onesie, adhere the sticker, try to fit that headband on again, and start snapping pictures of the growing girl.  The highlight of this month's photo shoot was that we had two guests: Dad and then Grandma Karen.  Despite being two of her favorite people, she must of been feeling a bit camera shy as she held in her smiles. No worries though, there are plenty later on in the post! ( :

Miss Long Legs

Now it had been awhile since she'd been weighed and measured, so this month we broke out the tape measure and scale and took her stats and the results were quite interesting! Let's just say she is one big girl! You can see her stats on our chalkboard (from this post) of weighing 16.5 lbs and measuring in at 28 inches tall, and those numbers are all fine and dandy, but when you chart them on a growth chart like this one... that's where the fun begins.  It turns out that her weight is in the 95th percentile. Now for those of who don't live your life surrounded by baby words and terms...95th percentile means that only 5% of babies of her age weigh more than her! What can I say, that girl likes to eat!

Her 4 Month Stats

Now as for her height, she's not even on the chart! She's above the 100th percentile! She must be taking after her Dad on this one.  But at the end of the day, I don't really care about the numbers.  As long as she's healthy and growing, I'm happy! On top of this, it looks like my vegan diet is doing it's job of not only taking care of me, but also her! Yeah...go vegan!

Looks like a smile snuck it's way onto the photo shoot!

Now aside from turning "4", we've been one busy little family this past month, let me share with you some of the highlights!

As I mentioned before, I went back to my job this month as an early childhood special education teacher, which meant I had to leave Avery for the first time since she was born.  I feel so lucky to have had the past 3 1/2 months to spend with her, but leaving your baby for the first time is never easy.  Luckily she's in good hands with my mother-in-law 2 days a week, and a friend of our family's that has a 15 month old the other 3 days. We both have adjusted fairly well to this new schedule and it really has made me enjoy the time I DO have with her.  As I mentioned before, I have lots I would like to post about this transition (pumping/bottles/etc.), but for now here's a pic I manged to get of her on her very first day of daycare.  Like that face? It's as if she's saying, "Oh Mom...why are you taking more pictures? Gimmie a break!" ( :  Get used to it girl! I even contemplated putting her diaper bag next to her, since she obviously doesn't have a backpack- he he! 

The Big Day
Also, we broke out possibly one of my favorite accessories of all time for Avery...skinny jeans! Enough said! ( ;

We've also been trying another new accessory this past week, called an amber teething necklace. And although they aren't for chewing, these necklaces are thought to help ease the pain that comes along with teething (read more here). These necklaces contain amber (which is a rock that used to be resin from a tree) and when the amber gets heated up by being next to her skin, it releases trace amounts of healing oils that can help relieve the inflammation and pain that accompany teething.  Seem like a choking hazard? You're not alone...many people wonder this. But I take it off of her at night while she sleeps or during the day when she naps.  Other than this she's pretty much always got someone watching her who could make sure the necklace is safe on her. Also, most amber necklaces are a golden yellow color, but I liked this darker color one, so that's why it may look a little bit different.

Styling in her amber teething necklace.
Now although it seems early for Avery to be teething, she loves to chew on things and has started drooling quite a bit...I call it "pre-teething".  So I'm hoping to start the necklace now and prevent any pain she may experience in the upcoming months.  I'll keep you posted on it's effectiveness when some little pearly whites start to pop up.

Also this month, Avery and I went to visit Brandon at his skateboard shop, Dairdevil Boards.  It was Avery's first time there and she really seemed to like it.  The combination of all the bright skateboards and her Daddy were enough to make this little girl smile and giggle the whole time we were there.

Somebody likes skateboards!

Grandpa Frank and her Dad sure knew
how to make her smile!

Speaking of smiles...

And just some more fun summer styles...
First pair of sandals!

Now this past month has been full of buying all kinds of new gadgets, toys, and clothes around this green house since someone has been growing up.  No more just laying Avery in the bouncy seat, she wants to be up and looking around.  No more just watching me cook dinner, she needs something in her hands to chew on.  And no more size 3 months...we are up to size 6-9 months!

Here is the first new toy we got, a Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumper.  We call it the "jumperoo" for short.  It was about $80 and Avery seems to really like it.  My desire to get this was because Avery loves standing up (with support). In fact, she almost gets mad if you try and hold her like a baby.  So to save my arms from breaking off, in came the Jumperoo. I debated between this one and other jumpers and exersaucers, but after a trial run at Babies R' Us one day, Avery (and I) decided on this one.  Now although the crazy bright colors and music were a bit much for me, they really pulled Avery in and now she is hooked!

First time in the Jumperoo.

One downside to the Jumperoo is that there is a mirror near the "piano-like" station and when the light hits it just right, it shines a reflection onto our ceiling...which drives my dog Jilly crazy! She chases it and tries to get it, despite the fact that it's up on the ceiling. We call the light reflection "dementors" (a Harry Potter/The Office "Prison Mike" reference). Here's Jill on "Dementor Watch Duty".

Thanks for keeping us "safe" Jilly!

I can attach various toys to the clips...which she then chews on.

Not quite tall enough yet. Good thing for thick scrapbooks!

"I love this thing!"

Another fun toy that we've really been getting a lot of use out of is her Bumbo seat, which you can see I often put in the windowsill behind my sink in the kitchen.  She loves the eye contact with me and all the fun sights and sounds that come from having an up close and personal view of all the food prep, dish washing, and smoothie-making that occurs in our kitchen.  A must-have for the Bumbo seat: the corresponding tray. Not only does it give her a place to rest her hands, it also it a great place to put some toys and soft books to keep her busy...even though she just throws them off! 

Smiling at me while I make a smoothie.

A funny thing about the Bumbo seat is that her chunky little legs often get stuck in it, so when we try to pull her out, the seat comes up with her too.  I suppose this is a good thing because at least I know she's nice and secure in there, but it's a bit funny when you're trying to get her out and you have to pry the seat off of her! Anyone else have this problem?

Those legs are stuck!
Another purchase we made this month was to buy a new car seat for Avery.  This wasn't exactly my plan, but when I tried buying new bases (for daycare reasons), for our current car seat, I had no luck.  The company had already upgraded the seats and bases and no longer sold the one I needed.  So I decided to go ahead and just upgrade Avery to a bigger car seat, since she was about to grow out of her old one (only goes up to about 20lbs or so).  So I got her a Graco My Ride 65 Convertible Car Seat, which can fit a baby from 5-40 lbs when rear facing and up to 65 lbs forward facing.  That's what I'm talking about...something that will last awhile! As you can tell, she seems to like it.  We like to call it her "big girl car seat!" Also, in case you're wondering, the base is built into this car no extra bases were needed!
Big girl car seat.

Also, now that my mom and I are back to school (she's a teacher too), we really enjoy a weekly tradition we've had since Avery was about 2-3 weeks old: Grocery Shopping Saturdays. My mom started tagging along with me to the grocery store near the end of my pregnancy and since then we've really come to love the time to we're able to spend together each week. Now that Avery is here, our grocery days are even more fun (and a bit more tiring as well!). Thank goodness we make a stop at my grandparents house in between the stores to feed Avery, eat our lunch, and catch up with them. Here's some pics from a typical Grocery Shopping Saturday:

Great-grandma Sue holding
the "chewing girl".

Great-grandpa's turn to hold her.

Time for me to eat my lunch!

Ready to go to one last store with
Grandma Karen...while wearing
her Baby Banz sunglasses of course.

 Here's a few last pictures from the month...

Tummy Time in the backyard.
Practicing standing.

So that wraps up month 4 and I'm sure month 5 will be here before we know it.  Until then, stay green. ( :

Saturday, August 13, 2011

5 Easy Ways to Go Green

Sometimes going green can be an hard thing to do. We feel like we like it's all or nothing. You may think that since I have a blog called, "Ashley's Green Life" that I'm living the high-fab super green life.  But I'm not.  I guess you could say I'm one green girl, but on a budget! In my "green-dreamland" I would drive an electric car, have an organic garden in my backyard, solar panels on my roof, bamboo flooring throughout my house, and all my appliances would be Energy Star certified, just to name a few! He he! What can I say, I like to dream big! But, since I don't exactly have the budget to buy or do all of those things, I don't abandon ship and say, "Screw this going green stuff...better go buy some paper plates and forget recycling!" Instead I do what I can with what I have. I make my own cleaners, I buy organic, I recycle, and use compact fluorescent light bulbs, and I always turn off the lights when I'm not in a room, just to name a few. 

"I've got big GREEN dreams too!"
Maybe you've tried going green before, and then it became too much work. Or it got too expensive.  Or maybe you steered clear from it because you think global warming isn't real.  Trust me, it is.  But you don't have go out and drive a hybrid or become vegan to start living a greener life...even those would probably help.  Today I'm going to talk about my top five easy and affordable ways that you and your family can go green. Maybe you want to do one at a time, or all five, it's up to you. The important thing here is to just do something

1-Recycle.  Nowadays, recycling is easy as pie. Most recycling pick ups allow you to throw all your plastics, cans, and paper products into one tub, as opposed to sorting it like back in the day.  I pay about $3-4 a month to have my recycling picked up by my trash pick up company.  Does yours offer a recycling service? There are also a variety of drop off bins located throughout communities such as with school districts or recycling centers sponsored by the city itself.  Recycling is key if you want to start enhancing your "green-ness" because it gets you thinking about the products you use and the effect they have on the environment.  Instead of all that packaging, cans, and plastic going to a landfill it will now get used to make new things, a description I tell the 3-5 year olds in my class all the time.  We even make bulletin boards to celebrate recycling, like the one seen below where I put my student's pictures inside of a recycling triangle they cut out.  We then put the caption: "I know how to reycle" inisde the triangle." I'm glad they don't mind my green-ness too much!

Getting back...instead of contributing to our ever-growing landfills, you could look through the things you normally throw away and see if anything could be recycled. It's kind of like those WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets, but instead ask yourself, "What Would Ashley's Green Life Do?" Now "WWAGLD" doesn't exactly have the same catchy appeal, but you get my drift.  Chances are if there's a recycling triangle on the object, the recycling bin is a much better home for it than the trash can. 

My tip for making recycling even easier...put bins throughout the house to collect recycling and then once they are full, dump them into one main bin.  If you've got to walk all the way to your garage or to another level of the house to recycle something, you're not going to do it.  Make your life easier and put one close to where you usually have things to recycle.  Since I'm kind of a recycling freak, I have a container in nearly every room to collect recycling (kitchen, office, bathroom/ know all those paper tags that come on clothes or the boxes makeup and cosmetics come in, well I recycle those too).  Below is the box I put my recycling in when I'm in my kitchen.  Once it gets full, I empty it in the garage.  The same goes for the other containers I have around the house.  Now don't worry about going out and buying even more recycling bins, see what you have around the house.  I just use old boxes (like the one below) or other old containers to put the recycling in. Easy peasy.

Jackson reminds us to make a stop at the recycling box
before throwing something away.
One step further: Go beyond your traditional recyclable items like paper, plastics, and cans into foreign, batteries, printer cartridges, and appliances- oh my! You can do it! Check this page to see a few of the not-so-common things I've recycled in the past.  Also, look further too see where some of these items can go by searching them in this database on Earth 911.  Just enter your zip code, and what you want to recycle and bam, you're done.  Pat yourself on the back for going above and beyond with this one.

2-Invest in some reusable cloth napkins.
So long paper towels!
One thing that's key with the "going green mindset" is to evaluate all the things that you throw away and ask yourself, "Is there a reusable alternative?" If so, try it out! In the past year or two I've switched over from disposables to reusables on the following items: paper towels, grocery bags, Ziploc bags, plastic water bottles, and even plastic straws, just to name a few.

One easy way to start your "reusing" trend is with a nice set of cloth napkins.  Think of it as a paper towel challenge...see if you can go 30 days without using a paper towel.  Sound like a daunting task? Again, ease in. Here's a more in-depth post I did specifically about saying goodbye to paper towels that might help you.   Start off with purchasing a set of cloth napkins.  I have two favorites:

1-Custom Reusable Unpaper Towels from EcoEllie on Etsy.  $17.99 for 24 single-layer napkins.  These rock because when you get the "custom" napkins, you get to choose from whatever style or pattern of fabric you want...and there are 525 types to choose from! As you can see above, one of my favorite prints was the recycling triangles...imagine that!

Unpaper Towels from EcoEllie

2- Unpaper Towels by Made in the Red Barn off Etsy.  $23 for 24 napkins (Although I originally got white napkins, I'd suggest another color, such as these awesome hand-dyed ones that way they will look better longer since white tends to stain a bit easier.).
Unpaper Towels by Made in the Red Barn

These two are my favorites, but there are tons of brands and styles out there so search around.  You could even get a set of washcloths from Wal-Mart to get you going. Whatever works for you is fine.  The idea is simple, use the cloth napkins in place of traditional paper towels.  So you spill something, grab a cloth napkin.  You need to wipe your mouth after a delicious meal of vegan sloppy joes, grab a cloth napkin.  Now once they get dirty, simply throw them in the laundry with your other clothes, wash them, and then use them again, and again, and again.  Ahhh...doesn't it feel so good to go green!

Just like having a system in place for my recycling, I also have a system for my cloth napkins. I use this "Unpaper Towel House" also from Made in the Red Barn off Etsy ($39) to store my clean cloth napkins.  It's great because there's no folding, just lift off the lid, stuff them in and you're ready to go. 

 My cloth-napkin dispenser.
Now after the napkins get dirty, I simply throw them under my sink in an plastic container (just a simple plastic package my spinach came in).  Once that container gets full, I dump it in with a load of laundry, and then the cycle begins again.

The "dirty napkin" container under my kitchen sink.
These cloth napkins do not have to be only used in place of paper towels, I use mine in place of Kleenex tissues, cotton balls, and sometimes even nursing pads.  I love thinking of all the disposable things I don't have to buy because of these cloth napkins! Rock on!

One step further: Go beyond cloth napkins and see what else you could switch from disposable to reusable.  How about some reusable grocery bags? You know you see those at your local grocery store every time you check out. How about picking one up next time.  Yes, they are a bit of a hassle to remember, but it sure feels good to know that I don't need to waste any plastic bags to get my groceries from point A to point B (from the store to my house) and never used again.

3-Invest in some glass Pyrex containers. 

All my leftovers in Pyrex containers.

Take one look inside my fridge and what do you see nestled up to all my yummy gluten-free and vegan condiments, food, and produce? Lots of glass Pyrex containers.  In this next step, we will be cutting out plastic from our lives and replacing it with it's older, wiser, stronger big  I used to have a fear of glass.  It seemed so heavy, breakable, and unsafe.  Plastic was the better choice right? Wrong.  I learned that plastic containers can leach all kinds of nasty little chemicals into our food and bodies...some of which can even mimic hormones like estrogen!

Do you have any of those plastic Tupperware containers that are all cloudy, worn, and stained looking? Kudos for trying to kind of go green by reusing them again and again, but they may actually be hurting you by leaching chemicals into your food.  They get even more a bad rap when they undergo extreme temperature changes, such as when they are frozen or microwaved. Yuck! Plastic, you suck! Get on out of my kitchen!
So long plastic tupperware!

Instead invest in a set of glass Pyrex containers.  Such as this set of 7 bowls of varying size with matching lids, which costs $22.  There are all kinds of brands, styles, and sizes out there so shop around and see what works for you.  The cost for these containers is minimal and you will get use out these for many years to come since they won't scratch or wear down like their plastic counterparts.  Even better, you don't have to worry about any toxic chemicals leaching into your food.  Just a tip, be sure to take the plastic lid off when you microwave your leftovers in these containers. 

One of the many shelves in my kitchen that's full of glass

Another green favorite food storage item of mine is mason jars.  While they store liquid items more commonly, I also use them to organize my dry-bulk foods like beans, lentils, and TVP.  Mason jars sure are amazing.
Mason jars are also another great food storage option.

One step further: Kick Teflon to the curb as well, and replace your cookware with stainless steel or cast iron.  Read more about how I did it here

4-Replace at least one of your cleaners with a green alternative.

Mixing up some "green cleaner" back
when I was pregnant with Avery.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the air inside our home is often more toxic than the air outside.  Who knew? Actually I knew, only because I've researched and learned that the "fresh clean smell" we all strive for in our house cleaning ventures, may actually be harmful to health because in order to accomplish this task a number of chemicals and toxic ingredients need to be used.  I won't bore you with the details, but the idea is...the simpler the ingredients, the simpler the product.  So for this step we're going to trade chemical-scientific sounding ingredients for simpler, more natural ingredients.  This can be done by buying a greener version of a clening product you like, such as with brands like Seventh Generation. Or you could make your own cleaners from scratch.  Here's some of my favorite green cleaning recipes that are super simple, easy, and cheap to make, as well as  my favorite store-bought cleaners.
My absolute favorite homemade multi-surface cleaner!
All you need is: water, peppermint castile soap, tea tree oil,
and a spray bottle.
One step further: As each of your old cleaners run out, try switching to a green alternative or making your own.  It's a bit of a daunting and expensive task to go through each item you clean with and replace it with it's green cousin, but when you do it gradually and one at a time, it doesn't seem quite as bad. So maybe one week it's window cleaner, and the next week it's toilet bowl cleaner, one by one, your greening you cleaning and taking drastic steps to reduce the toxins in the air of your home.

5- Try to go meatless one day a week. 

Sunshine and Morningstar Burgers are favorites around
this green house. 

Come on, you knew some form of veganism would sneak into this list.  He he! I understand that the task may seem daunting when you think about cutting out all meat and dairy from your life, so I invite you to have an open mind about this one and ease into trying this one foot at a time, or one meal at a time.  There is a cool movement going on now called Meatless Mondays and it's just as it's name meatless for one day a week, Monday being that day.  As simple as it sounds, there are many environmental benefits that come along with it.  In fact, if a large number of people would abstain from meat for one day, it would decrease their carbon foot print, minimize water usage, and help reduce fossil fuel dependence...not to mention decrease their cancer risk, reduce heart disease, fight diabetes, and curb obesity.   So take a 1-day break each week from meat, and see how creative you can get.  Need some recipe ideas to get you started? Check out my recipe page or my "Going Vegan" page.

One step further: Try to cut out all dairy on that meat-free Monday...thus making it a Vegan Day.  Too much? Take it similar to the green cleaner swap out, as you run out of one meat or dairy item, try a vegan alternative.  Regular butter runs out...try some vegan butter.  Skim milk runs out...try some Rice Milk.  Maybe you'll find a vegan alternative you like better than the original.  You'll never know unless you try.

So those are my top five simple and easy ways to go green right now.  I'm sure I could go on and on with many more, but I'll leave you with these for now.  Go on and prosper my green friends.
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