Euphoria’s Blog for Green Mamas

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Must-Reads for Pregnancy & Birth August 27, 2009

Filed under: Pregnancy — Rachel @ 3:57 pm
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As soon as you began thinking about getting pregnant (or realized you already were!) your mind was filled with a million questions.  There’s a lot to learn about pregnancy and birth.  Here’s a book list to get you started:

Healthy Pregnancy

  • The Mother of all Pregnancy Books: The Ultimate Guide to Conception, Birth & Everything In Between by Ann Douglas.  A great introduction and resource for first pregnancies.  Lots of information on common problems of pregnancy.
  • Mothering Magazine’s Having a Baby, Naturally by Peggy O’Mara.  “We’ll inform, you choose”  Having a Baby, Naturally reflects this spirit with straightforward, uncensored information about pregnancy and childbirth, addressing common concerns and questions in a compassionate, nonjudgmental style.
  • Eating for Pregnancy: The Essential Nutrition Guide and Cookbook by Catherine Jones and Rose Ann Hudson.  A practical book from a perinatal nutritionist on proper eating and weight gain goals, with a large collection of recipes.  It’s a cookbook in its own right.  Also addressing the requirements of diabetic, vegetarian and vegan diets during pregnancy.

Safe Childbirth

  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin.  A classic, full of positive birth stories to prepare you mentally and physically for natural childbirth.
  • The Doula Guide to Birth: Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Should Know by Ananda Lowe & Rachel Zimmerman.  Insights from experienced doulas and real moms for birth and the welcoming a newborn.
  • The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer.  A truly empowering resource covering the many procedures and tests available during pregnancy and birth.  Offering data and advice so you can make informed decisions regarding your care. 
  • The Doula Advantage by Rachel Gurevich.  Why and how to hire a doula, with interviews from more than 235 women and birth professionals.  So much good information, and real life tools to help women choose the best doula for their birth.
  • Pushed:  The Painful Truth about Childbirth and Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block.  “The United States has the most intense and widespread medical management of birth” in the world, and yet “ranks near the bottom among industrialized countries in maternal and infant mortality.”  This provocative, highly readable expose raises questions of great consequence for anyone planning to have a baby in U.S.

Fun, Encouraging Reads

  • Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent.  This fun, lighthearted book is chock-full with Peggy’s experiences delivering babies in Berkeley, California, including 40 birth stores from a wide-range of diverse, interesting women.  It’s the perfect prelude to your own labor, sure to leave you with realistic expectations for your own birth and some inspiration too.
  • The Girlfriend’s Guide to Prengnacy by Vicki Iovine.  Although I don’t share the perspective of the author, this book is so hilarious that I had to include it here.  The author’s sassy writing style will have you laughing at your pregnancy woes. 
  • Pregnancy Stories: Real Women Share the Joys, Fears, Thrills, and Anxieties of Pregnancy from Conception to Birth by Cecilia Cancellaro.  A collection of honest short-stories written by real mothers about the ups and downs of pregnancy and birth.  Support for the journey.

SouleMama’s “Handmade Home” August 17, 2009

Filed under: Eco-Friendly Living,Family Culture — Rachel @ 7:09 pm
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On Saturday I found a very special package awaiting me at the mailbox – my pre-ordered copy of Amanda Blake Soule’s “Handmade Home:  Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures” plus “Bend-the-Rules Sewing” by Amy Karol.  Both are gorgeous, inspiring books written by popular bloggers.  I’ve just began to sew, having only accomplished: 1 flat valence curtain, 1 crayon roll, and 1 blanket repair!  Of all of the sewing how-to and household project books I checked out from the library, “Bend-the Rules Sewing” was my favorite.  It has a concise, illustrated guide to basic and somewhat advanced sewing a techniques (from sewing a seam to sewing a buttonhole), plus a large selection of adorable, unique projects that are very up-to-date.  I liked the book and projects so much, I decided it was worth owning.  And, what better way to treat myself than to purchase “Bend-the-Rules” along with the soon-to-be-released “Handmade Home”. 

For weeks I’ve waiting, and now that Amanda’s “Handmade Home” finally hear, I cannot be more pleased.  I bought the book on faith, seeing as how there are no Amazon reviews.  My faith was based on my love of her first book “The Creative Family:  How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections.”  That magical book is responsible for beginning my adventure into all things Waldorf!  It is “family culture” at it’s finest and an excellent gift for any mother of little ones.      

I wasn’t sure what I’d get in “Handmade Home”, but now I can tell you!  The first part of the book is a primer on the eco-friendly art of reusing old materials.  It’s filled with tips for getting the best finds at thrift stores, garage sales, etc.  She shares what to look for, even with reminders to leave behind those great deals that one doesn’t need for the next thrifter – it’s “thrifting karma” says Amanda.  Excellent advice!  There’s also brief ideas for setting up a sewing space in a small area.

The second part is a large collection of 30+ projects organized by categories: Nourish (as in kitchen items), Nurture (as in wellness), Play, Seek (as in adventure) and Retreat (as in decor).  The categories are loose, but they do give you a peak into the scope of the projects.  And they are not “the usual” projects.  No patchwork quilts or aprons here.  Those are useful patterns (and can be found in “Bend-the-Rules Sewing”) that anyone might want, but not what you’ll find in Handmade Home.  Amanda Soule’s book brings many ideas that incorporate childrens’ art – “Portrait Bookmarks” – or make use of fabric scraps – “One-Word Banner”.  She includes several non-sewing projects, often using decoupage.  There are useful, but “alternative” patterns for items like cloth diapers, rag bags and women’s cloth.  And then, there are memory-preserving projects like the “Memory Tree Quilt Art.”  Everything is beautiful!  And, just as with her blog SouleMama, everything is presented along with inspiring photography.  Along the way she shares “crafty tips” and “earthy tips” – both of which share ways to craft smart, making safe, eco-friendly choices. 

I have only begun to absorb the goodness to be found in this little volume.  But, just this weekend, I have finished an embellished bath mat and have begun a “One-Word Banner” for my son’s room, using my husband’s discarded wool sweater and fabric scraps from my son’s crib bedding and nursery items.  I think that “Handmade Home” will enrich the life of many a “Green Mama” interested in creating and reusing.  Enjoy!


Nature Play & Nature Study with Young Children August 8, 2009

naturesplaygroundSince I posted Getting Outside in Hot Weather, I’ve been enjoying this focus on outdoor play and casual nature study with my little ones.  We LOVED “Nature’s Playground: Activities, Crafts, and Games to Encourage Children to Get Outdoors”, which I found at our library!  The book has so many gorgeous and inspiring pictures of children having fun outside:  climbing tress, hiking, playing in the mud, catching bugs, building natural forts, lying in tall grass.  The pictures alone launched my 4 1/2-year-old on a verbal monologue about the grand hiking trip she will do someday.  Since then, she and daddy have visited a local forest for her first hike. 

Besides pictures, the book has a ton of ideas for neat ways to play outside with nature.  We took a jaunt down to our almost-dry pond bed to wade through the mud (I really just watched that part).  We’ve caught more bugs, frogs, and spiders than ever before.  Most of the activity ideas are really ideal for the 6+ crowd.  I plan on holding off on purchasing the book for a few years, for that reason. 

Besides enjoying “Nature’s Playground”, I’ve found a few more ways to enjoy the outdoors with my kids.  I purchased a spiral bound, blank notebook for our “nature journal.”  Last week we visited the botanical gardens armed with a few ink pads and our journal.  Aria and Liam both enjoyed stamping various leafs and blossoms to our pages.  I wrote the common species name under each print.  Now that’s one way I can actually learnmushrooms plants – just 6 or so at a time.  We left with inky hands, as I’m sure you guessed.  I plan to add pressed flowers to our book soon, and to let it continue to evolve, adding whatever nature-oriented observations or mediums seem right.

Since my children are young, the idea is not to cram their heads full of information, but to nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity about nature.  To that effect, we aren’t running around reading lots of children’s non-fiction for our homeschooling “science”.  Instead, we have a Waldorf-inspired nature story as my daughter’s focus story every few weeks, we play creatively outside and – hopefully – I share my genuine interest and knowledge about nature in ways that are spontaneous and real. 

Trouble is, I’m not all that knowledgeable about nature.  In fact, I’m probably more interested in nature study now than I have ever been before. To equip myself, I’ve purchased a series of pocket field guides for familiar trees, wildflowers, insects, butterflies, etc.  I discovered a great series published by Audubon that’s geared towards children.  frogsThat’s just what I need!  (I checked out many complete field guides from the library on wildflowers and felt like I was reading a foreign language).  On Amazon, many of these guides are available used for pennies, plus shipping.  Here’s the National Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Familiar Reptiles and Amphibians, as an example.  Every spread has a full, page-sized picture and a simple description with all the key details that you’d actually want to know.  My whole family (even dad) has enjoyed paging through these!  Just this weekend, we discovered a Red Velvet Ant, Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly, Northern Tooth Musrhoom and Wolf Spider.  Good times!


Children’s Books for Summer July 27, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 8:50 am

I know that summer is halfway over, but it’s taken me this long to gather together a decent collection of children’s books!  I’ve brought home many a dud from the library lately.  I guess I’ve had bad luck.  Now you don’t have to!

Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow (a definite favorite!)

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle

Swimmy by Leo Lionni

When the Sun Rose by Barbara Berger

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran (more for children 4+)

My Life with the Wave by Catherine Cowan

Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni (really any time of year)


Local vs. Organic Produce – What to Buy? July 16, 2009

Filed under: Healthy Living — Rachel @ 8:19 pm
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When it comes to food, buying organic is buying the best for our families and our world.  Pesticides are clearly a problem, and poison-free fruits and vegetables are definitely the way to go when you’re feeding young children.  But what do you do when the summer’s bounty offers you the choice of buying organic or picking your own at a local blueberry farm?  After all, buying local reduces so much waste in the form of dollars and fossil fuels.  It also supports farmers near you, possibly reducing pollution, crime and destruction of natural habitats.  To top it off, the food will certainly be fresh – which means more nutrients in every bite.  If the idea of eating locally interests you, be sure to read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  It’s a gem of a book!

I was talking with my girlfriends about this quandary: local or organic?  Of course, we all wish we could have our cake and eat it too.  And, sometimes you can.  With CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) becoming more and more popular, it’s not too hard to get local, organic vegetables on a regular bases.  I think it’s the fruit that presents a real problem.  Have you ever gone to the store, hoping to indulge in some organic berries or peaches only to discover that the extremely limited organic options are quite uninviting?  Moldy berries or rock-hard peaches won’t win my money, organic or not.  That’s when I may head over to the conventional fruit stands, and none too pleased. 

But, with a little planning, you can buy local fruit with ease during the summer.  Search for local farms that offer pick-your-0wn.  Harvesting is a fun, education outing for young children!  It makes kids appreciate good fruit and it’s value so much more!  Plus, you’ll save a few dollars by picking. seems to be the largest database of farms that offer this service.  It’s organized by state, but doesn’t have a very nice layout.  Often there are better farm databases on a state-by-state basis, so do some searching online.

If you don’t have time to pick your own, buy locally at roadside stands in the country or farmer’s markets in the city.  Again, you can scout out farmer’s markets online at Local Harvest.  When you buy, don’t assume it’s local.  Go ahead and ask where things you are interested in were grown.  It’s not unusual to find food imported from across the country at a roadside stand.  And, just by asking, you can share your preference to buy local.  That’s how business is changed – one voice at a time. 

However you eat locally, you interact closely with people that grow your food.  This presents a unique opportunity to influence their growing methods.  Maybe they don’t garden organically, but maybe they would… if they knew that was so important to you.  Maybe they do garden organically, but they aren’t certified.  Encourage them to keep it up the good work!  And that’s why it’s a toss up when you consider eating organically or eating locally.  Both options are exponentially easier on the earth than eating conventional produce from the grocery store.  Both choices, eating local and eating organic, are a vote for a safer, healthier tomorrow.  When you can’t find organic in the store – go out and find a farm near you!


Public School: Have you Considered the Implications? June 30, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 2:36 pm
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The words of John Taylor Gatto, former New York State & New York City Teacher of the Year:

You aren’t compelled to loan your car to anyone who wants it, but you are compelled to surrender your school-age child to strangers who process children for a livelihood, even though one in every nine schoolchildren is terrified of physical harm happening to them at school, terrified with good cause; about thirty-three are murdered there every year.  Your great-great-grandmother didn’t have to surrender her children.  What happened?

If I demanded you give up your television to an anonymous, itinerant repairman who needed work you’d think I was crazy; if I came with a policeman who forced you to pay that repairman even after he broke your set, you would be outraged.  Why are you so docile when you give up your child to a government agent called a schoolteacher?

I want to open up concealed aspects of modern schooling such as the deterioration it forces in the morality of parenting.  You have no say at all in choosing your teachers.  You know nothing about their backgrounds or families.  And the state knows little more than you do.  This is a radical piece of social engineering as the human imagination can conceive.  What does it mean?

One thing you do know is how unlikely it will be for any teacher to understand the personality of your particular child or anything significant about your family, culture, religion, plans, hopes, dreams.  In the confusion of school affairs even teachers so disposed don’t have opportunity to know those things.  How did this happen?

Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like.  Building a child’s mind and character is what public schools do, their justification for prematurely breaking family and neighborhood learning.  Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them can?  There isn’t any.

The cost in New York State for building a well-schooled child in the year 2000 is $200,000 per body when lost interest is calculated.  That capital sum invested in the child’s name over the past twelve years would have delivered a million dollars to each kid as a nest egg to compensate for having no school.  The original $200,000 is more than the average home in New York costs.   You wouldn’t build a home without some idea what it would look like when finished, but you are compelled to let a corps of perfect strangers tinker with your child’s mind and personality without the foggiest idea what they want to do with it.

Law courts and legislatures have totally absolved school people from liability.  You can sue a doctor for malpractice, not a schoolteacher.  Every homebuilder is accountable to customers years after the home is built; not schoolteachers, though.  You can’t sue a priest, minister, or rabbi either; that should be a clue.

If you can’t be guaranteed even minimal results by these institutions, not even physical safety; if you can’t be guaranteed anything except that you’ll be arrested if you fail to surrender your kid, just what does the “public” in public schools mean?

An excerpt from the prologue of his book, “The Underground History of American Education:  An Intimate Investigation into the Prison of Modern Schooling.” 

Mr. Gatto is a well-respected public speaker and writer who shocks the world with his candid criticism of the modern schooling movement.  His book “Dumbing us Down” is a short collection of thought-provoking essays that will get any parent thinking in new ways about what’s wrong or right about our education system.  Although the average person may not agree with all of Mr. Gatto’s opinions, the average parent can definitely benefit from being exposed to his unique perspective on the public schooling tradition.


Pollution Undermines YOUR Ability to Breastfeed June 20, 2009

Filed under: Breastfeeding,Pregnancy — Rachel @ 5:43 pm
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When I was pregnant with my first child, I read “Having Faith: An Ecologist’s Journey to Motherhood“.  Having been raised with little concern for the environment, this was THE book that opened my eyes to exactly how significantly environmental pollution effects my life, and the life then growing within my womb.  Sandra Steingrabber shares the story of her pregnancy, birth and new motherhood, with complete honesty about the bumps along the way and with humour that really carries the story along.  Meandering throughout the tale are scientific insights into the way the environment effects pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.  I’d venture to say that most mindful mamas would love the book!  It’s an inspiring and empowering story.

I was reminded of “Having Faith”  this morning, as I considered sharing with you some depressing news.  Scientists have recently learned that dioxin exposure during pregnancy can reduce growth of breast tissue necessary for breastfeeding by about 50%.  According to the report, it gets worse:  dioxin alters milk-producing genes, resulting in fewer mature lobules and ductal branches which make and deliver milk.  So, that means less breast growth and improperly developed milk ducts.  Sigh…  And we wonder why so many well-meaning mothers struggle to produce enough milk for their babies.

What is dioxin?  It’s a chemical bi-product of many manufacturing processes (like bleaching paper and fabrics) and of waste incineration at factories, municipalities and homes.   During such processes, dioxin is released into air and water.  Humans are exposed routinely when breathing and in some of the healthy foods we eat.  Specifically, dioxins tend to build up in the fat of livestock and fish and in the fatty portion of dairy products.  But, pregnant women are NOT to attempt to reduce their intake of these healthy foods!  Dioxin exposure is also a concern with the use of bleached tampons.

Basically, scientists and health experts are saying there’s little any pregnant woman can do to reduce her personal dioxin exposure immediately.  What we CAN do is support legislation that regulates industries and municipal waste incinerators that contribute greatly to the pollution.  Also, don’t burn garbage at home, avoid buying bleached products (tampons, disposable diapers, sheets, etc), and reduce waste by recycling and composting. 

To read more about the effects of dioxin, see Chemical Stops Breasts from Growing Bigger.


Better Late than Early April 14, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 8:57 pm
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Way back in 1989, Raymond and Dorothy Moore published “Better Late than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education.”  In the book they presented thorough research supporting the rather old-fashioned idea that young children thrive best in a home environment, and do NOT gain from academics in preschool and kindergarten. 

“Better Late than Early” has become a catch phrase for the decision to de-emphasis early academics. Many helpful books have explored the same premise from slightly different angles, including “Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk”, “Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less” and “Your Child’s Growing Mind”

I was raised in an academic household and, in school, I was often defined by my “ahead-of-the-game” status since I graduated two years early.  It doesn’t come naturally for me to assume this “Better Late than Early” idea, but I have to say that all of the research – ALL OF IT – supports the concept. 

In our lives, adopting a “Better Late than Early” mentality supported our decision to take our oldest out of a local preschool program in favor of keeping her home.  It challenges me to resist the desire to practice writing and phonics with my 4-year-old.  It encourages me to consider “mundane” time together cooking, coloring, painting, cleaning or playing outside as valuable, enriching experiences far more developmentally appropriate than any LeapFrog learning toy. 

If you are like most parents, marketers have already sold you the various teach-your-baby now, get your child on the fast-track to success type products.  Don’t feel bad.  Sadly, the researches and child development experts just don’t have the same marketing clout as big business.  I do challenge you to pick up one of the books I’ve mentioned above or simply click over to this very informative article Teaching our children to write, read & spell to get a birds eye view of the risks of early academics vs. the benefits and ease of waiting.


Children’s Books for Spring March 28, 2009

Filed under: Children (3-6 years) — Rachel @ 2:20 pm

The trees are blooming, bulbs are growing tall and pollen is everywhere…. Hooray for spring!  It’s definitely time to put away the children’s books about snow, hibernation and whatnot, in favor of new picks for springtime.  Here are a few favorite choices for spring for my children ages 2 and 4.  I was able to find almost all of them at my library:

G is for Goat by Patricia Polacco 

   Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow

The Story of the Root Children by Sibylle von Olfers

Jennie’s Hat by Ezra Jack Keats

Flower Garden by Eve Bunting

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert



Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children March 3, 2009

Filed under: Family Culture — Rachel @ 7:58 pm
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When you’re at home with your children, what is your time like?  Relaxing, nurturing, creative, artistic, fun? Chaotic, rushed, tense, boring, frustrating?  How would you describe your family culture?  Where are you now, and where do you want to be? 

Heaven on Earth is one of my new all-time favorite books.  It came to me highly recommended by countless Waldorf mamas and was thoroughly enjoyed by my local Holistic Mom’s Network book club.  Sharifa Oppenheimer, author of Heaven on Earth, presents the Waldorf lifestyle in a clear, accessible and inspiring account.  Her book is chock-full of can-do ideas,  reasons “why” and beautiful photography.  As Sharifa suggests in her introduction, I journaled my way through the book.  I took my time, slowly digesting chapters on establishing rythym, creating an indoor play environment, creating an outdoor play environment, oral storytelling, creative art, imaginative discipline and more.  If you have children under seven, and especially between the ages of 3-7, this book is a gem. 

It has been two months since I read Heaven on Earth.  Since then, I’ve made so many small changes, but the overall effect is substantial.  When I had first learned about Waldorf, from reading books like The Creative Family and running about online, I was overwhelmed by how beautiful the lifestyle is and by how much I wanted to change about our family culture.  After making the big changes, like eliminating TV for the children, staying home more and getting crafty/artistic again, I was struggling to know what to do next, and how.  Heaven on Earth is like a gourmet platter, filled with diverse, beautiful treats – ideas that will enrich your life with young children.  Choose what appeals to you  most and enjoy! 

Here are a few new additions to our home:

  • Weekly Rythym: as posted here
  • Bedtime story as a family: After the children are ready for bed, we all read a story together by the fire.  It’s nice to do bedtimes as a family, rather than one parent to one child.
  • Weekly meal traditions:  To take some of the stress out of meal planning, we set some weekly traditions.  Now we know “what’s for dinner” or at least who is responsible for cooking it, in advance.  We also have more non-cereal breakfasts which come about because of weekly breakfast traditions.
  • Blackboard:  We made a large blackboard and hung it in the living room/eating area.  I post poems, prayers and such on the board that brighten our days.  Aria (4) enjoys memorizing them.
  • Toy Storage:  After purging many plastic/electronic or otherwise overstimulating toys and acquiring some new Waldorf toys, I was happy to learn new ways of organizing and presenting them.  Sharifa suggests baskets, baskets and more baskets.  Small ones on shelves, medium ones on the floor with blocks, cars, etc and large ones for gathering (quick clean-up!).  The wicker baskets are lovely!  I also think they make it easier for the kids to find their toys and to clean up. 
  • Discipline Tactics:  One that works well for me is using the “in our family we….” language (ex. in our family we always have rest time).  For my 4 year old, this language helps her identify with the desired behavior.  She feels included, not forced.  For my 2 year old, this language helps me to avoid negative language.  “In our family, we ask with words”, followed by a demonstration, effectively and positively teaches him to ask, not grab. 

Well, that’s just a random sampling.  The book is just PACKED with good stuff.  When my friend is done with it, I’m going to enjoy going through it again!