What Is Wild? And Where Can You Find It?

"What is wild? And where can you find it?" These are the first lines of the wonderfully illustrated picture book Finding Wild, a multi-sensory adventure into the idea of wild. I love this book for how it entices kids to find wild in every place, in the woods as well as on city streets. Luckily for Eco-novice readers, the author Megan Wagner Lloyd is an old friend of mine (and long-time fellow greenie), who has actually written a post and many a comment on this very blog!  So of course I asked her to do a Q & A with me about her fantastic debut picture book.

Games that Teach Kids about the Natural World

I'm always on the lookout for books, games, toys, and tools that help my kids learn about and interact with nature. Here are some of our family's favorite games that teach kids (and grown-ups!) about the natural world. Whether your kids are fans of memory, Pokemon, or Monopoly, you'll find something on this list for them!

Too Much Time Indoors Is Hazardous to Your Health

Snuggling inside a comfy blanket on the sofa with a warm drink on a blustery chilly day sounds wonderful. But as temperatures drop and daylight hours diminish, resist the urge to enter a state of hibernation. Remember that it's still important to get outside!

That's because humans aren't designed to spend the entire day inside. We need to spend time outside to stay healthy and happy. Sunlight (especially in the morning) improves mood and regulates circadian rhythms. Being outside promotes good vision by protecting against myopia. Plus, the air is cleaner! According to the EPA, "a growing body of scientific evidence has indicated that the air within homes and other buildings can be more seriously polluted than the outdoor air in even the largest and most industrialized cities."

Prevent and Treat Cold & Flu Naturally

The aisles are full of over-the-counter medications promising to alleviate the symptoms and even shorten the duration of colds and the flu. But what if those medications don’t work for you? What if your kids are too young to take them? What if you are pregnant or just prefer to avoid the possible side effects of conventional medicines?

Here are some tried-and-true ways that my family treats colds and flu naturally. Bonus: many of these are so benign that they can be done regularly as a way of preventing cold and flu as well.

Minimize the Risks of Swimming in Chlorinated Pools

Last summer one of my kids' favorite activities was swimming with friends at a local pool. So this summer I decided to fork over the money for a pool membership. Which means I am committing to taking my kids swimming frequently in order to get my money's worth. But the pool is chlorinated, as most are, and swimming in chlorinated pools has certain risks. Nonetheless, I believe for my family the pros of physical activity and fun with friends outweigh the risks. Still, I'd like to mitigate those risks as much as possible. First a bit about the risks.

The Dangers of Swimming in Chlorinated Pools

Feel free to skip over this section and go straight to the strategies for minimizing the risks below. We don't all need to know the depressing details! But for those interested, here goes. When contaminants such as sweat, hair, sunscreen, or urine mix with the chlorine in the pool, they form disinfectant by-products, or DBPs. One type of DBP, chloramines, is responsible for the strong chlorine smell we associate with pools. DBPs are known respiratory irritants. Many DBPs are toxic or suspected carcinogens.

Indoor chlorinated pools create an additional danger compared to outdoor pools because of the enclosed atmosphere. I have long disliked indoor pools because of the mugginess and extra strong chlorine smell (which is actually chloramines) of the indoor air. Volatile chemicals can be transferred from water to air and then inhaled by swimmers and spectators. Outdoor pools offer greater ventilation.

Numerous studies have connected swimming in chlorinated pools to health problems, particularly for the very young and the highly exposed (for example, elite swimmers and pool workers). Health problems associated with exposure to chlorinated pools include increased risk of respiratory problems, childhood asthma and allergies, DNA damage and bladder cancer (see this discussion of the effects of DBPs). Several studies have highlighted the risks of swimming in indoor chlorinated pools in particular. For example, studies have linked swimming in indoor pools to testicular damage, as well as asthma and recurrent bronchitis in children. But the research on DNA damage and cancer is in the early stages, and the research reviews on chlorinated pool exposure and childhood respiratory problems that I read stated that the connection is inconclusive (since some studies find no connection, or even associate swimming with a decrease in respiratory symptoms).

For me, the bottom line is that toxic chemicals are present in and around chlorinated pools, and while researchers are busy studying the health effects of those compounds, my family will enjoy the benefits of recreational swimming while doing our best to mitigate our exposure to harmful chemicals.

© Depositphotos.com/witch999

How to Limit Exposure to Harmful Substances in Chlorinated Pools

Gluten-free German Pancakes (just as good as the wheat version!)

The deliciousness has landed!

Since my diagnosis with Celiac Disease a year ago, I have slowly been expanding my repertoire of gluten-free breakfasts. This has been one of the very easiest. I love to whip this up, put it in the oven, and let it bake while I make the kids' lunches and help them get ready for school. Even my not-a-morning-person daughter, who often tries to skip breakfast, will eat several helpings. In fact, she's the one who said, "These are just as good as the gluten version!"

I first got the idea for making German Pancakes gluten-free while staying with my sister-in-law. She made them with sorghum flour. They were a little heavy (similar to German pancakes made with whole wheat flour), but still quite tasty, and I realized that this recipe had potential. She recommended I try oat flour (lighter and less strong taste), which I did, and that's how I've been making them ever since. If you cannot tolerate oats, I recommend trying sorghum flour (for a heartier version) or experiment with brown/white rice flours, millet flour, and so on.

[For those without gluten issues, here is my delectable gluten version. I still miss them just a little.]

Top Ten Tricks for Early Potty Training Success

Are you interested in saving money? Conserving resources? Preventing diaper rash, UTIs, and constipation? Side-stepping years of changing diapers containing "man-poops"? Do you want a greater range of choices for preschools? Would you like to avoid potty training an uncooperative 3-year-old? Then early potty training just might be for you.

If you want to try early potty training, it's as easy as taking off your child's diaper, and plopping them on the potty every once in a while.  Here are my best tips for successful early potty training, based on my experiences potty training my second and third children.


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