Last year, I discovered that my weight was at an all time high. I weighed as much as I did right before I delivered my second child – and I wasn’t even pregnant! I had worked so hard to lose the weight from my two pregnancies, but somehow it snuck back on. I realized that I had to do something about my lifestyle if I wanted to be able to keep up with my active kids.

A dear friend talked me into joining our local health club, and for that I am eternally grateful. As work out buddies three times a week, we act as each other’s personal trainers and encourage one other to keep exercising. We use the elliptical machines for cardio, then do strength training with the weight machines. In the first few months, the weight just fell off of both of us. I lost 30 pounds while she lost 60! We continue to work out, despite the fact that we are no longer losing weight. While we are likely building muscle, which weighs more than fat, it is very frustrating. My clothes do fit better, but after over a year of continuous exercise I have yet to be able to fit into smaller sizes.

I am grudgingly accepting the fact that it takes more than just exercise to be healthy. Like the typical American family, my kitchen is filled with snacks and junk food. I often rely on fast food and convenience foods to feed my family. At the urging of my husband, I am now trying to buy and serve healthier choices. While I am not ready to switch to a non-fat vegan organic diet or make every single thing we eat from scratch, I am willing to take baby steps.

So, here are the baby steps toward healthy living that I am taking with my family:
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables
2. Drink more water and less pop / soda
3. Eat more whole grains
4. Reduce fat intake and avoid trans fats
5. Avoid MSG and reduce sodium intake
6. Avoid sodium nitrate and other artifical preservatives
7. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and artificial sweeteners

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Fighting the Fall Flu

by Elaine on September 24, 2010 · 8 comments

in Parenting

School is back in full swing, and so are the germs and bugs. There has already been a lice scare in my son’s grade, and I’m sure cold and flu season is not far behind.

Normally, my husband and I have our whole family vaccinated against the seasonal flu (thimerosal free version for the kids). Last year, we chose to receive the seasonal flu shots, but not the H1N1 vaccine. This year, the seasonal flu protects against the H1N1 virus as well as a few other strains of the flu. We are still undecided which members of our family, if any, will receive this year’s vaccine.

In the meantime, we are continuing to practice thorough and frequent hand washing with a regular (non-antibacterial) foaming hand soap and cleaning our home with green cleaning supplies such as Seventh Generation disinfecting products.

seventh generation logo_final A few months ago, I was given the opportunity to review the Seventh Generation line of non-toxic cleaning supplies. MyBlogSpark and Seventh Generation are once again sponsoring a give away of their fine eco-friendly products. They generously provided me with additional products to review and give away.

When I first tried the Seventh Generation Lemongrass and Thyme scented Disinfecting sprays and wipes, I was put off by the strong and unusual scent. I initially thought the scent was unpleasant, but then I realized that I no longer felt sick after disinfecting my kitchen or bathroom. The fumes from my old chemical filled wipes and sprays used to make me dizzy and give me headaches, despite turning on all the exhaust fans. Since I have been using the Seventh Generation products regularly, I have adjusted to the scent and don’t mind it as much anymore.

seventh generation-4 web If you would like to try the Seventh Generation Disinfecting products for free, please post a comment below about how you are protecting your family this flu season. One lucky reader will win a Seventh Generation “Back-to-School” kit that includes a Seventh Generation backpack, two canisters of Seventh Generation disinfecting wipes (one for home and one to donate to your child´s classroom), disinfecting multi-surface spray cleaner, facial tissue and paper towels. Comments must be posted by midnight CST on Sunday 9/26 to be eligible for the random drawing. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 27th. The “Back-to-School” kits have been generously provided by Seventh Generation through MyBlogSpark.

If you sign up to join the Seventh Generation Nation, you can learn more about their products and even print coupons.

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Marlo took the kids on an evening stroll after dinner tonight. On their way back home, they came across two baby birds that had fallen out of their nest. At first they feared that the birds did not survive, but the tiny chicks started to move. The kids quickly called me to help rescue the birds.

With the help of my gardening tools, I moved one bird out of the grass into a cleared area, which was where its sibling had fallen.

Using his smartphone, Marlo searched “What to do with chicks that fall out of a nest” and found “A Guide To Assisting Wildlife Babies: What to do when you find them.” The article said to return the nestling birds to their nest, if possible. We looked up into the tree and discovered that the nest was turned upside down and dangling from a branch. Clearly, these birds could not be returned to their original home.

After reading the rest of the article, we decided to make a new nest. We felt we had to protect the birds from local cats, dogs, raccoons, oppossums, and other critters. I also did not think that the birds would be strong enough to fly away by the time the landscapers came back to take care of the lawn.

How To Save A Fallen Baby Bird

I poked some drainage holes into a plastic carry out food container. I also ran some pipe cleaners through the holes so the nest could be wired into the tree. Once that was complete, we lined the container with a paper towel, leaves, and dried grass. Using the aforementioned gardening tools, I gently placed the baby birds into the makeshift nest. Marlo used his ladder and secured the nest back into the tree as close to the original nest as possible.

While Marlo was up in the tree, I heard a strange noise that kept repeating over and over again. I searched the grass for another baby bird and realized that the noise was coming from up in the tree. It was the Momma Bird! She was calling to her babies. I think she even had bug in her mouth to feed her chicks.

As soon as the nest was safely in place, we all went inside the house to watch from the window. Sure enough, the Momma Bird reunited with her nestlings. We watched the mother bird fly back and forth to the new nest with food and other items for her babies.

We tried to use this experience to teach the kids the beauty of nature and the value of life. I think they were able to absorb some of the impromptu lesson, but they were very eager to look for worms and bugs to feed the baby birds. Since it was past their bedtime, I convinced the kids to let the Momma Bird take care of her babies from now on. I promised that we would check on them again tomorrow. It will be bittersweet when the baby birds are able to fly away on their own.

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Since I do not work outside the home right now, I try to save money wherever and whenever I can. I carefully study the grocery sale papers every week and clip or print coupons. I closely monitor how my children and I spend my family’s money.

As much as possible, I try to do my part to help others while still maintaining our finances. The biggest way I do this is by sharing my children’s clothing with family, friends, freecycle, and the Salvation Army. We appreciate receiving hand-me-downs, so we always continue the cycle.

Another thing I do is donate my unused and/or expired coupons to the military families stationed overseas. I clip ALL the coupons from my Sunday newspaper, even the pet food ones and others I know I won’t use. Sometimes I’ll even ask my friends and family for their coupons when they are done with them. Then once a month, I mail all the coupons to a military base in Japan that I adopted through the Overseas Coupon Program. Military families are allowed to use expired coupons up to six months past their expiration date. These families often have just one income, so these coupons can really make a difference. The postage to send the coupons overseas is the standard domestic rate since it goes to a US base, but an international customs form is required. This is an easy and inexpensive way to support our military.

“The Drugstore Game” is a method I learned from sites such as Money Saving Mom and Krazy Coupon Lady. Money Saving Mom wrote “In a nutshell, the Drugstore Game is taking advantage of the rebate programs at CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens to get household and beauty products for pennies on the dollar — or even more than free!” I go to CVS and Walgreens at least once a week to purchase items that are either on sale, have coupons, or generate Extra Bucks or Register Rewards. Sometimes a product is all three of those things, allowing me to spend only pennies for tax and then receive free items AND vouchers for future purchases. My bathroom cabinets are filled with body wash and toothpaste that I received free, or even got paid to take. I often collect these drugstore game goodies and take them to my local food pantry. I’m sure they would be greatly appreciated at a battered women’s shelter or homeless shelter as well. My local pantry is the Niles Township Food Pantry. They collect and distribute food, personal items, and even school supplies for children.

One of the easiest ways that I help my children’s school is by clipping the Box Tops for Education that are on all kinds of General Mills products such as Cherrios cereal, Nature Valley granola bars, Chex Mix, and Gogurts yogurt as well as other household items like Kleenex tissues and Huggies diapers, Pull Ups, and OverNights. Each little pink logo is worth ten cents to the school. While this may not sound like it’s worth the hassle of cutting out, participating schools earned more than $10 million in the 2008-09 school year alone! My children often bring me empty boxes and ask me to help them cut out the “moneys.” Then I just send their teachers an envelope full of the little pink papers so they can submit them and receive money for their school.

SuperValu and General Mills have partnered together for the Box Tops for Education program and are generously offering one lucky winner a $25 American Express gift card through MyBlogSpark. I believe this gift card can be used anywhere, including any of the SuperValu stores (ACME, Albertsons, Cub, Farm Fresh and Jewel-Osco.) If you would like a chance to win this $25 gift card, please leave a comment with a creative or unusual way you help your family, school, or community by June 8th. The winning comment will be randomly selected and announced on June 9th.

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For a long time, house keeping materials in my home consisted mainly of my Dyson vacuum and baby wipes. Once I discovered that baby wipes could be used to clean baby food off of walls just as easily as a child’s skin, I began using them for everything. I have used baby wipes to clean dried yogurt off the kitchen table, mop up mud tracked onto my carpet, and even removed “washable” crayon marks from wood furniture. I cannot imagine how I was able to live the majority of my life without baby wipes.

In an effort to become more green and eco-friendly, I am trying to wean myself off of disposable baby wipes in favor of reusable sponges, washcloths, and towels. I am also avoiding antibacterial soaps containing triclosan and purchasing refillable products when available.

IMG_1769My favorite refill product so far is the White Tea & Vitamin E Dial Eco-Smart Refill.  This refill is packaged in a soft pouch rather than a bulky plastic bottle.

I use this liquid hand soap to refill both my regular soap dispensers and my foaming soap dispensers. My article “How to: Refill Foaming Hand Soap Pumps” describes how to add one part liquid soap to four parts water to make a less expensive, non-antibacterial foaming hand soap refill.

When MyBlogSpark offered me the opportunity to sample several Seventh Generation products, I was thrilled. On their about page, Seventh Generation describes themselves as being “committed to becoming the world’s most trusted brand of authentic, safe, and environmentally-responsible products for a healthy home.” Seventh Generation uses natural CleanWell instead of triclosan to make their disinfecting products. Earlier this month, the FDA wrote “At this time, FDA does not have evidence that triclosan added to antibacterial soaps and body washes provides extra health benefits over soap and water. Consumers concerned about using hand and body soaps with triclosan should wash with regular soap and water.”


MyBlogSpark and Seventh Generation sent me several cleaning products and supplies to sample and review. I really believe in the Seventh Generation philosophy, so I eagerly anticipated the cleaning kit in the mail. As soon as they arrived, my husband and I used them to give our kitchen and bathroom a much needed deep cleaning. The Disinfecting Multi-Surface Cleaner, Bathroom Cleanser, and Disinfecting Wipes all cleaned my hard surfaces quickly and easily, but we could not get past the oddly familiar yet slightly unpleasant Lemongrass and Thyme scent.

The brown paper towels we received were unbleached and made from 100% recycled paper. Unfortunately, they are not as absorbent as the Bounty paper towels I am used to. I ended up using twice as many paper towels to dry hands, wipe up spills, or soak up oil from food.


All the Seventh Generation Disinfectants are only available in the Lemongrass and Thyme scent, but there is an unscented Free & Clear line that I am looking forward to trying. I plan to join the Seventh Generation Nation so I can print coupons before my next purchase.

If you would like to try the Seventh Generation Disinfecting products for free, please post a comment below. One lucky reader will win a Seventh Generation Cleaning Kit containing disinfecting products, paper towels, a carrying tote, and “The Conscious Kitchen” book. The winner will be announced on Monday, May 10th. The cleaning kits have been generously provided by Seventh Generation through MyBlogSpark.

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