Parenting as Infographic, Installment #1

So I was having lunch last week with my good pal Colin Delaney, an e-activism expert extraordinaire, and he reminded me that, hey, the Interwebs these days are fond of the Infographics.

I thought, hey, I’m a parent. I occasionally have firm mental possession of something approximating actual information. And then it goes away.

So I thought I would attempt to capture the fleeting data points that inform my existence with Edward Tufte-style visual elegance.

Then I decided I would merely try to amuse you.

And, voila, what I know as a parent to be true does fit into a Venn diagram. Truth to power, people, truth to power.

I’m also presenting you at long last with a poll, because that’s what the Interwebs wants.

Mid-Summer Photos: Blueberries, Colorado, and Butterflies

The right way to spend summer

The right way to spend summer

For a break from train derailments and chemical rules, I thought I’d share a taste of our recent spates of summertime fun.

Until the last few weeks or so, there wouldn’t have been much to post. I’ve generally been working longer hours, and Maya was attending BuilderBee camp, where she evidently enjoyed gluing things. I have no idea where to store the impressive but awkwardly shaped 3-by-3-foot posterboard city she toted home.

A few weeks back, we went with Grandpa around sunset to a small beach on the Potomac River by Gunston Hall. The pictures were lit by what real photographers call the magic hour (and I call a good excuse to put the camera on the “auto” setting):

IMG_0050IMG_0045IMG_0090IMG_0061Some Monarchs were drinking water by alighting on sand:

IMG_0070We also managed to crunch out a few Saturdays back by toodling up to a yoga education and retreat center in Olney, MD, that also happens to grow pick-your-own organic blueberries. Sadly, the birds had lain waste to the ripe ones, so pickings were slim. But we enjoyed the exercise, including a bright infestation of caterpillars and a surprising and unusual display of color coordination in the toddler’s wardrobe:

IMG_0035IMG_0029IMG_0021IMG_0031IMG_0044IMG_0032Last, but really not least, I braved the skies with the two-year-old and we had a lovely time in Denver for a combo work and vakay trip. We went up the gondola in Steamboat Springs, had an incredibly tasty dinner stream-side at the picturesque Sweetpea Market, picked up goodies at the charming Saturday farmer’s market, and even caught up with a small-town rodeo, which was delightful once I made a concerted decision to look past the animal cruelty issues and enjoy the change in culture.

Maya had a blast doing the “ram scramble,” which actually involved a lamb with a ribbon around its neck being chased through the thick dirt by the under-5 set. She didn’t even come close to winning, but was exhilarated by the bright lights of the rodeo ring.

As we were too far away for good shots of bucking broncos, I mainly took pics of those waiting to ride and the charming kids in their cowboy boots. (And no, I did not add sepia tone via Instagram — my beloved Colorado actually looks this way around sunset. Sigh.)

IMG_0246 IMG_0248IMG_0242IMG_0231We also had lunch at my favorite restaurant for super-healthy food, Watercourse Foods, stopped in briefly at the excellent Denver Museum of Natural History, which Maya loved, and visited a working ranch only a few dozen miles from downtown Denver, where the livestock are maintained as they should be and the out buildings are decorated with whimsical figures.

IMG_0302IMG_0309IMG_0304Hope you’re having a great summer — look for an upcoming post on greening your kitchen, including why a ’70s coffee pot is the right no-plastic solution and deserves a second look!

Hot Reads: Toxics, Parenting and Other Interesting Stuff

Colorado Meadows

Colorado Meadows (Photo credit: QualityFrog)

It’s a two for one! After some radio silence, I’m kicking off a new regular feature with a bonus double-feature. Lucky you. Every Friday or Saturday going forward, I’ll post links from the week before that grabbed my attention from the week.

To make up for my lost time up in the lovely mountains of Colorado last weekend, this week I’m posting two weeks of news you can use.

From last week:

  • Derailed: I’m sure you were as horrified as I was about the deadly train crash in Lac-Megantic involving 46,000 barrels of oil and 47 deaths. I was saddened by the crash, and then angry when I read an op-ed by a former Lac-Megantic locomotive engineer detailing the decay of government regulations and industry practices he witnessed on the job. Could such an awful thing happen here? Sadly, yes. As I learned when I worked at Public Citizen years back, trains carrying hazardous materials pass near city centers every day. Just two months ago, a train operated by the railway-giant CSX exploded in a Baltimore suburb. From my past work, I know that CSX routinely fights common-sense measures to reroute hazardous materials around densely populated areas. Years ago, when we worked with the D.C. city council to ban hazardous materials from tracks passing within four blocks of the Capitol building, CSX sued, successfully, to overturn the measure. The ban would have required CSX to reroute fewer than five percent of its trains in order to safeguard the safety of DC. Let’s just hope that federal regulators are on the case.
  • Explosions in the sky: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board is positioning itself to call out the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) foot-dragging on a number of recommendations concerning chemical plants and refineries. The safety board, an independent federal agency, has issued numerous recommendations disregarded by OSHA (the regulator) for years now. After the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas this past April that killed 14 people, there should be a renewed urgency to act.
  • European make-over: A 2009 European Union rule requiring considerably more transparent labels for personal care products and cosmetics just fully entered into force on July 11th. The rule includes specific restrictions of nano-materials used in products like sunscreens, as coloring agents, or other uses, and requires that where they are used, they must be identified on the label. Given the active scientific debate and level of uncertainty over the safety of nano-particles in products, transparency is really the least that consumers should have. While certain “greener” items here in the U.S. do specify when they do not contain nano-technology, for the most part consumers are in the dark about their use in a wide range of common products. As usual, Europe’s in the lead on an important chemical safety issue: so, er, pass the freedom lotion? Or something…
  • Parents, please follow the directions: While it’s sadly self-evident that kids don’t come with an instruction manual, Resources for Infant Educarers just published a truly wonderful list of tips to help new parents. They suggest common-sense, helpful concepts to guide your approach, including nurturing a child’s innate curiosity, creating a safe play place and connecting with your child through caregiving tasks.
  • Trayvon could have been my child: I was moved to tears by this local mom blogger’s passionate and eloquent response to the verdict in the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. She writes: “Like with much of parenting, I suppose I will stumble my way through this with as much love and good intention as I can manage. With Trayvon’s mother in my heart, I can promise that I will do what I can to teach my son and my daughter to not fear different faces. Not to be afraid of someone else’s child. So that child may live with a little less fear that my child might do him harm.”

This past week:

  • The royal treatment? There were lots of babies born, but only one had the whole world squealing. The frenzied, round-the-clock coverage of the royal birth was nothing if not obsessive. Me being me, I began pondering the odd status of women as combination sex symbols and baby-delivery devices, and wondered aloud via Twitter just how long it would be until we would start hearing about Kate’s plans to lose pregnancy weight. The pathetic answer? Not even a day. Within 24 hours of the birth, a British tabloid ran a story detailing the royal regimen to shed pregnancy pounds. At least I wasn’t the only one who found it offensive. And the issues it stirs up run deep: here’s a thoughtful piece on pregnancy, body image and the media obsession with obtaining a “post-baby bod[y],” which, IMHO, is about erasing the procreative possibilities of women’s bodies so as to unburden the male gaze. This attempt to erase the physicality of pregnancy comes at an incredible cost to women in manufactured self-loathing, and forms a bad model for our children, as this daughter writes in yet another tear-jerker of a post, entitled, simply enough, “When Your Mother Says She’s Fat.” For all these reasons, I adored this gorgeous photo-essay of real moms in all their glory, many with their partners and kids. I’d love to see more of that kind of art, please, and less of the mawkish hyper-monitoring of the mom-bod.
  • And nailed down: Having forgone my beloved mani-pedis for several years now due to the serious concerns they trigger about salon workers’ health, I was delighted to hear about a new program in Santa Monica, California, that could produce healthier conditions in nail salons. Many salon products contain dangerous toxins: oluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde are the nastiest. Salon workers face long hours of exposure, and even OSHA admits many of them can cause long-term health impacts. The Santa Monica program rewards salons that choose safer alternatives. Let’s hope it signals the beginning of a national trend. (While I’ve found that most so-called “green” nail salons are anything but, there are some exceptions. If you’re ever in downtown Philly, there is a truly organic nail salon there: Mi Cumbia in Rittenhouse Square. Mi Cumbia is a wonderfully relaxing place owned by a pioneering couple in green nail salons. If you know of others like this in your city, please do tell in the comments, as I would love to know when I travel where I might get a truly better pedicure!)
  • Targeting toxins at Target: Basically everyone, including me, occasionally shops at Target. So please consider signing onto this important petition to call on Target to remove toxin-laden products from their shelves. It’s organized by one of my fave coalitions, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, which tirelessly advocates for toxics reform and also manages to publish a great blog.

Hope this was useful! Feel free to suggest what I’ve missed in the comments…