Spring Ephemerals for Spring Ailments

Violets & Nature Providing the Perfect Medicine

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space. But while on our trip, opportunity arose for me to find my groove. That’s when I turned towards violets!

You know it’s spring in New England when it snows on Memorial Day weekend, right? As my family made a journey to New Hampshire for this three day weekend, a part of me was sure the odd weather was a blatant sign of the Earth being out of whack… but I was glad there were still spring buds and flowers to enjoy at our vacation destination.

Back home in western Massachusetts, May had already ushered in summer-like foliage and the heat waves to back it, but during our road trip to NH we were on the highway watching rain turn into thick flurries of cosmic snow. It was distracting enough to take my mind off the fact that we would have to get out of the car soon with sleeping children and all our gear to nestle into a different bed.

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space…

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Parenting Green: Eco-Craft Ideas for Holiday Gift Giving

Family Creative Free Play Pays Big Dividends in Crafting Memories for the Holidays

Carving out time to craft has proven to be an essential activity for me. It allows for creative free-form time amongst the schedules, the routine, and the prescribed. I love it when I get into a project alongside the kids. Sometimes it’s baking. Sometimes it’s seed saving and sorting. Sometimes it’s specific materials that inspire a project. I found myself enamored by this beautifully dyed wool roving at the Hartsbrook School holiday fair in Hadley, MA, last weekend and spoke with the vendor about all the ways we could work with the material as a family. I was inspired to try something new. I had never needle felted before and thought that it would be something at least my 10 year old could get into. What I didn’t realize was she was already doing this craft at her school. It’s true the material sat in our fabric closet for exactly a year before I actually put it to use, but I was reignited to the idea when a neighbor showed me some of the needle felting she was doing alongside her billowing basket of cookie cutters, and I jumped in. Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Buy Local First

Greening Our Social Landscape

Our environment is more than the botany around us! When we admire our landscape we recognize that it also includes the views of markets, public spaces, and a bustling community of likeminded people engaged in businesses, and schools. All these things attract us as inhabitants. So when we think about preserving our environment by doing helpful things like recycling, river clean-ups, and using reusable bags, we can also consider efforts made in greening our social landscape as equally supportive.

We value face-to-face interactions. Getting our questions answered, being helped in person to find what we need, having conversations with real people about life, our kids growing up, and what’s going on around town. I want to introduce you to the concept of buy local first. If you live in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA you likely have heard this term, or even have picked up a copy of the Pioneer Valley Local First guide. It’s all about shopping local. You know why? Because when you make a purchase at a local business, significantly more money will recirculate into the community keeping it vibrant. There are 10 reasons (and really good ones, some that you might not even think of make a shift but they all do)! You can read them in more detail in Pioneer Valley Local First post, “Top 10 Reasons to Shop Local First!” If you’re more of a visual learner, you can click on this graphic to view more.

I wanted to highlight my favorite 3 and elaborate from my own experience: Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: People’s Climate March

Reflections on the People’s Climate March
NYC Sept 21st, 2014

I felt it was important to go to the Climate March because it was going to be historic—the largest climate rally in history, and people from all over the globe had an opportunity to share a collective stance. Indigenous groups joined with hundreds of thousands of people to be speaking with the same voice with a lot more presence. Singer Angelique Kidjo spoke with Amy Goodman from Democracy Now as she represented the women in Africa who are paying the price for climate change as it is directly affecting their crops and their livelihood right now. In some way I felt just as unheard as them. Al Gore and Bill McKibben stood strong leading the march though all fame aside there was an overall voice throughout of truly this being about ‘us the people.’

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So what made my husband and I want to bring our children when the thought of taking 3 kids to the grocery store is daunting? Well, I guess it’s because we recognized that daily discomforts and mood shifts would be a part of our day with kids anyway, so we were ready for that. It was just something we were going to do. To have them not only experience a civil action for a cause they believe in, but also to let them know just how important our actions are. It’s a unique opportunity to broadcast the small ‘work’ we all do every day as individuals to minimize our impact.  Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Take Nature’s Lead

Go with the Flow

Have you ever had that moment, where something you’ve heard over and over again finally takes on a whole new meaning? I found that happening to me once before when observing my neighbors chickens for quite some time feeding in the yard, and truly understood what was meant to be called ‘a chicken.’ Well this moment was a similar embodiment of a saying found routed in nature that was really brought to life by engagement and observation.

On a recent vacation, my family was taking out some canoes and kayaks in a saltwater river that connected the bay side to the ocean side of Cape Cod. The direction of the current was dependent on high and low tide. If you timed it right you could ideally ride the current in one direction and wait for the tides to turn and then have the same ease in riding it back. The trip that we were journeying on this particular time was going to be a short exploration, so we figured it would be easier to ride the current at the end of the trip, so we headed upstream first. Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Climate Change Education & Action

People’s Climate March

There is something important happening in September. It’s the People’s Climate March in NYC. They claim it will be the biggest climate rally in history. They also say it will be pet and family friendly, so I’m using encouraging Pioneer Valley locals to get to the march on September 21st, 2014. A local team of people are working on organizing charter bus transportation and carpooling to the march in NYC in September. You can travel round trip for $25 or less getting back the same day, so don’t let cost or time stand in the way. The atmosphere and tenor of the event is meant to be dignified, fun, impacting and empowering. This is not the place for terror and fright as it will certainly be permitted by NYC, peaceful and safe for all who come. Keep an ear out for fun, local, and creative activities leading up to the support of the rally.

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Parenting Green: Make Yourself Re-useful

Lead by example and develop new habits in reusing materials

Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. But do it from reusable water bottles.

I know this to be true about water bottles… They make you drink more water; especially when they’re new, and you’re a kid. It’s worth it to me for our kids to get excited about the purchase of a new one, especially now that summer is finally here. I often forget in those first weeks about switching gears into full-hydration mode, and making sure that everyone is drinking enough water. Without fail, getting a new containment method for liquids provides enough entertainment that even I have fun drinking more.

There are so many choices of BPA free plastic ones and gloriously colored stainless steel ones, you’ll be sure to find your muse. In the $15-30 sticker price, you might convince yourself you’ll be done buying them because they last forever, but they also get lost so easily. (Maybe they’re all where I left my reusable bags.) Then I think about all those moments when I want a cold drink when I’m out and about: an iced coffee, or chai, or a smoothie from the cafe. These are ALL moments we can hand our reusable container over the counter and have it filled up. Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Facilitating the Climate Change Conversation

Kids and Climate

My kids are getting older and are more tuned into our conversations. Remember the days as a parent when you could talk ‘adult’ in the front seat about things that interested you and the kids paid no mind?  Now at age 6 and 10 our two oldest are more aware and have context for the information they are absorbing, coupled with the fact that they want to understand what the adults are talking about. There’s no changing it; we are in complex times and as parents we are facing the challenge of how to digest this information and create a productive environment for our kids to thrive in.

We knew as parents we’d be met in their adolescence with difficult conversations about sex, drugs, violence, mental illness, and death… Can we add climate change to that ‘complex’ list?   Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: 6 Reasons to Bike Ride with Your Family

Biking with Your Family

It just feels good to get out on a bike. It’s liberation, it’s exhilaration, it’s exercise, it’s transportation, and it’s free*! The little trips add up and if you can run your smaller errands by bike you’ll likely feel better, live longer, and save money. Now that you have a family, don’t let transporting children be the burden that puts you in the car. Taking them biking is fun and you can plan what type of biking system to use based on the length of the trip, the time constraints, or the weather. So really, it’s just about integrating it into your life and creating a new habit (or reviving an old one!).


We used to live in the Hilltowns and taking biking trips around where we lived was challenging, I won’t lie. The driveway was gravel (which is a hard surface for kids to get moving on) and we were surrounded by a lot of hills. These can be deterring factors. Finding a large paved lot or getting to a place that has less inclines can make it easier for everyone. If you’re schlepping from the Hilltowns into the Valley to do your grocery shopping you might as well bring your bikes to get around town and enjoy the paved paradise…I challenge you to watch how cars get stuck in traffic while your crew keeps in forward motion! Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: The Gift of Honey

Raw Honey: Learning, Eating & Appreciating

Our family eats honey regularly. The jar lives on our kitchen table.  It’s used daily in tea, we pour it over yogurt, and spread it on toast. It’s something I enjoy and use often, something I place value on. When our friends had us over recently and offered to send us home with a frame of honey straight from their hive, I couldn’t say ‘no,’ though the impulse to negate such a generous offering was stirring. I am so glad I accepted. The 2-5lb weight of the frame was surely felt.  It was densely full of honey, capped off by sweet smelling wax.  How did the bee make two distinctly different substances from one tiny insect body (okay, many tiny insect bodies)? Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: It’s Not What We Say, It’s What We Do!

Your One Thing

Every day we are challenged to be authentic. Authentic to ourselves, to community, and to our loved ones through our speech or actions. There is a tendency to alter our opinions in hopes that they will match others, or in efforts to not offend, or sometimes its skewed to diffuse tension. The goal is to be expressing honestly and receiving feedback empathetically. I am about to tell a story that touched me so single pointedly around my authentic self and my values. I got a soaring feeling in my heart when it happened and I knew that it aligned with my intentions completely, though I hesitated to share it. I was concerned other people would feel guilty or ashamed if they didn’t care about this one thing to the same degree as I did. I wanted to avoid potentially hurting or alienating myself in the parenting community. What I realized in validating that assumption was that I wasn’t being authentic to myself and I was playing party to the ‘what if’s.’ If we are coveted or fear-based about what we truly are and how we express then we are teaching confusion of opinion and identity to our children.

So here it goes… Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste

Reducing the Consumption for a Family of Five

I was putting out the trash this week and it kind of hit me how little our family of 5 (with 3 children under the age of 10) had to throw out. I have to admit I saw it as an opportunity to share just how second nature it is for us to do the handful of extra things that make a big reduction in our weekly waste. My kids were curious why I was taking the pictures, as they always are, and I thought it was a great opportunity to have them take notice too on how little trash we send away and how much we take responsibility for. “It’s because we compost.” I told them, “And because we cloth diaper.” Imagine if all this extra stuff had to go in the barrel to be sent off to the dump?! We’d be filling two barrels!

With landfill issues coming to a head, conservation commissions are scrambling to do assessments of their towns and promote recycling and waste reduction. I have heard that in 2016 Massachusetts will be lifting the ban on incineration, except, they are just going to call it something different. To me, that’s a red flag. There seems to be more reactionary measures than preventative ones to our problems. Why not take a proactive approach? We don’t have to ‘do it all’ whatever that may be. For our family it really boils down to 6 things that we do with a little extra effort to reduce our trash. So I hope that these suggestions come not as a wall of guilt if you’re not already incorporating them, but as seeds of opportunity for change: Six Steps Towards Reducing Your Family’s Waste…

Parenting Green: Winter Curiosity & Outdoor Play

Winter Nature Play

I am always amazed at how the kids tend to be the ones to notice the pulse of our natural world through their curiosity. It’s how discovery happens! We just have to bring them to the opportunity and they will certainly find it. — What are some of the ways your family stays connected to nature within the limits of winter?

I love the adage, ‘there is no bad weather, just bad clothing.’ especially this time of year when the winter winds and flakes can make you feel like it’s not worth the fight to get bundled. What’s your strategy for getting the kids geared up before the inner heat you’ve created sends your minds to a boiling point!? Sometimes I don’t get the process down so wisely. I feel like if our coat area was set up more like a firehouse station, we might gear up and get out…it’s always a back and forth with finding gloves, the hat, and which door the snow pants are hanging up at. Keeping myself from getting overheated helps me have more patience in that process. Luckily we have a screened in porch so I can send the bundled baby and big kids out once they have their gear on, and they can wait there until I get winterized.

It was really about the commitment the other day when the idea to go outside in the falling snow came over the living room where free play was happening. There was no pressure of schedule to follow, we didn’t have to be anywhere at any particular time. We knew that the need for physical activity was necessary and that being outside was always welcomed and enjoyed once we got there. Somehow we kept the momentum going even with the resistance voiced by the happily engaged big kids. I think that’s where the commitment came in. We had a vision, and we didn’t waver. We wanted to go for a walk in the trails at the Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton. There were plenty of natural trails and a lookout tower that we could climb. It would be fun… Read the rest of this entry »

Parenting Green: Eco-Gift Wrapping Ideas for the Holidays

Reusable & Creative Wrapping Alternatives

Alright, it’s here. We have turned the corner into winter and holiday season is upon us. There is excitement and anticipation and joy ahead (as well as a healthy dose of anxiety and stress). I usually reflect on the previous year’s gift giving and how to come up with original ideas this year that save us money, time, and just feel good. This year I’m focusing on hand-made because I know it feels good for me to get creative. I purchased materials I was excited about (felt fabric) and could create a myriad of projects from (french press cozies, pencil holders, bookmarks, ornaments, pot holders, etc). I also realized that some of the things I make regularly anyway are enjoyed by others and to celebrate that. Are you known for your cooking or baking? Do people love the photos you take? The other year we cut out family pictures and put them into old bottle caps and covered them with epoxy resin, and put a circular magnet on the back as keepsakes. Spending less on tangible things and focusing more on giving hand-made helps us tap back into the idea that it’s about the gesture and not the grandeur.

Wrapping paper is often just used once and then thrown away. I wanted to share some sweet, easy, and achievable ideas I have seen as alternatives to traditional gift wrap…  Read what ideas Angie shares this month…

Parenting Green: Cloth Trumps Paper

Reuse

In our house, it’s hard to remember how we made it from the days of paper towels by the roll and paper napkins by the stack to the cloth napkins that prevail in our home now.

The adage ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ seemed to move from a motto to a household reality pretty quickly in our home. I’m glad about that. When I talk to my husband’s grandma about some of the projects the artisans and crafters are making around here from repurposed materials she kind of chuckles about how that was just the way things were back when she was young. It’s more of a trend now, she felt, and less out of necessity as it was when she was mothering. Though like me, I believe she was glad to hear people were getting back into that type of reclaiming regardless. Perhaps we are circling back in time a bit. History does tend to repeat itself, and this is one relapse not only worth reliving, but perhaps one we are increasingly unable to do without.

Back are the days of cloth napkins and cotton bags for bringing home groceries! Even the big chain grocery stores are retraining us with posters at their entryway reminding shoppers to get their reusable bags from the car. And before we know it, we end up using these bags for a whole lot more than groceries! Whether they’re used to hold beach towels, kids snow gear for trips, sleepover items, or for on-going projects that live in our shed, it’s no wonder I’ve lost track of them along the way…

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Parenting Green: Repairing and Connecting to Our Communities

Repairs

There is a sentiment of resiliency and connection to our community when we participate in sustainable practices…

Every time I walk into a home and see the paper cuts of Nikki Mcclure’s work hanging on a wall or a page of her calendar looking back at me, I’m reminded of the sweet work that it is being human. I’m immediately flooded with ideas of repairing, reusing and reclaiming our creative heritage. Inspired to pick up thread and attend to the basket of mending that covers my worktable. Days and weeks go by, and now that basket has been demoted to the closet, almost forgotten about. Within are the possibilities of new outfits, stockings, and pants, so long forgotten when they reappear mended, that it will feel like a new wardrobe. How is it then that I feel the need to go shopping instead?…

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Parenting Green: Learning & Connecting Through Locally Grown Food

The Language of Local Food

One year my family planted brussels sprouts… We watched this plant grow and grow and it was almost fall and nothing had appeared at the top of the plant yet. I was expecting buds within the leaves at the top of the plant much like a cabbage or broccoli grows. Only later did we discover the whole time these little buds were being made along the length of the stalk beneath the foliage. It was so cool!

In celebration of the harvest time, we spend a lot of time as a family eating.  And it’s good eating. Super fresh and delicious plums like you’ve never had from the supermarket in the winter, delicious corn that pops right off the cob (and lets not forget about the butter and salt, that’s super delicious too), cucumbers so crisp and refreshing it almost replaces the need to shower, and soon to be soups of fall squashes put to puree.

Creating an association with eating that starts with where our food is grown, is a certain way of instilling a language around vibrant and healthy living. Weather you only have room for pots of veggies growing on your patio, or you can dedicate a spot in your yard for a garden, or even if none of those apply to your family’s ability to integrate growing food at home, taking regular visits to a farm can certainly help create that context. Just as we pick up our language, as infants being immersed in the spoken word, so is true of the rest of the information we store, especially around food choices and where we get it…

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Parenting Green: Rebuilding Nature Awareness

Hurry up and Wait

Bask in your surroundings this summer and reconnect with nature and your family! (Photo credit: Angie Gregory)

From one thing to the next, in the car seat, out of the car seat, at the camp, off the bus, in the car, out the door, in the building, out the store, off the playground, at the table, to the party, and then…. on the beach. The best summer moment my family has had yet this year was exploring a new swimming spot at the convergence of two rivers, with rocks to jump off and tiny rapids and pools with frogs and craw fish to catch.  We spent over four hours absorbed in this small section of river, and it felt so real!

Ironically enough, I picked up a book while rushing around during the day. Stopping quickly at the library, between diaper deliveries with my nine year old, I spotted it… Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Nature and Survival for Children.  Though what I thought I was picking it up for was not what I ended up getting out of it, which was how to re-build nature awareness.  Tom Brown’s advice as to the best way to accomplish this… really get into your surroundings and bask in it with your kids!

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Parenting Green: Spring Ephemerals for Spring Ailments

Violets

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space. But while on our trip, opportunity arose for me to find my groove. That’s when I turned towards violets!

You know it’s spring in New England when it snows on Memorial Day weekend, right? As my family made a journey to New Hampshire for this three day weekend, a part of me was sure the odd weather was a blatant sign of the Earth being out of whack… but I was glad there were still spring buds and flowers to enjoy at our vacation destination.

Back home in western Massachusetts, May had already ushered in summer-like foliage and the heat waves to back it, but during our road trip to NH we were on the highway watching rain turn into thick flurries of cosmic snow. It was distracting enough to take my mind off the fact that we would have to get out of the car soon with sleeping children and all our gear to nestle into a different bed.

I like being able to leave the reminders of home and the to-do’s behind, but the other end of the spectrum is feeling a little stuck without the predictable tools, comforts, and rhythms of our own space…

Read the rest of this entry »

Debut of Parenting Green: Earth Friendly Ideas for Raising a Family!

No Seat Belts

We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure! (Photo credit: Angie Gregory)

My nine year old rides the public transit bus to school, with no adult chaperone. Just with some classmates, typically some war vets, and sometimes a doughnut in hand, this is how she experiences the responsibility of being on time. As well as the reward of it: the once a week ‘doughnut day’ is our incentive for getting out of the house on time (or early rather). It helps the kids move through the morning routine without too much derailing. Sure, there might be some bribing (read incentivizing) going on here, but there’s a lot more to our story.

We made the choice to send our child to a charter school. We garden and grow some of the food we eat, and think a lot about where the rest of our food comes from and what’s in it. We’re in the mindset of being purposeful with our decisions. We think a lot about giving our kids the most ‘optimal’ environment to thrive. It’s our natural inclination as parents.  We all have this drive, right? As parents we’ve thought that riding the city bus can provide valuable real world experiences.

But isn’t there some stigma around public transit? We’ve all absorbed the less than stellar conversations between some public transit riders. And now my daughter is among these regulars. She’s been riding this bus route since she was a kindergartener. Didn’t a mom in NYC receive backlash because she sent her similarly aged child onto the subway to commute on his own? Am I in neglect, or putting my child in danger?

I’ve been inspired by my daughter’s un-phased character. She’s not greasing profanities or languishing in any noticeable way. In fact she’s building friendships on the bus, learning about how to get around, recognizing other buses around town (kind of like the car complex we experience when we own a Subaru and we start seeing them everywhere), feeling empowered, and being rewarded with responsibility.

We take advantage of the bus on weekends sometimes just for fun. With hands off the wheel we can engage more, help more, and communicate without worry of the road. Plus, ask any young child if they’d like to ride the bus and to them it’s an adventure. The bus money is a novelty, the driver a chuffer, the steps like floors of a building, the freedom to choose your own seat, big windows….no seatbelts!

We don’t necessarily live right on the bus line. You don’t need to even live in a city in order to ride. We have to get to the stop by car most mornings. However, spring has brought out our bikes again and yesterday we enjoyed a side-by-side ride into town to catch the bus. First her bus arrives, and then mine right after. Life isn’t without coordination and planning and now that these rhythms have become habit we’ve worked through the humps of ‘I have to walk too far after the bus drops us off’ or ‘There was a man on the bus sitting near me that smelled like peppers. And then another man got on the bus, and he smelled like peppers.’

I can’t guarantee there won’t be some kind of altercation or disturbance, but it’s not like the bus is without boundaries. There are other eyes, ears, and helpers (community) on the bus to diffuse and report. That’s the trust I have in us as people and the effort I place in my own heart to do the same. Oh, and did I happen to mention the 45 minutes of driving time it saves us in the mornings…equating to rewards on gas, money, and inevitably our natural resources.

It might not seem like much, but this extra effort to be resourceful has enriched our lives in other unforeseen ways. When we participate in our community we’re building familiarity, safety, and ownership where they didn’t exist before, and raising kids to be engaged in the place they live.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture 
and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.

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