Los Angeles with Kids – Archery Adventure

bigstock-Sunset-5952930I love how much there is to do and experience in the greater Los Angeles area. You want the beach – great. You want to go skiing – it is a relatively short drive up to the mountains. You want Hollywood,  you got it. Disneyland, we got that too. Not to mention Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, Six Flags and more.

There are also some less well known adventures perfect for an urban or suburban family seeking to explore more traditional activities. Recently, my family tried out archery at Archery Outpost and loved it. It was a great time together as a family.  We all enjoyed it. My 10 year old Minecraft addicted son loved it, as did my 8 year old daughter and my husband.

I have always loved archery. Or at least the thought of it. I did it a summer camp a couple of years when I was young, but I remember it being a frustrating experience. The bows were either too hard or too easy to draw, the arrows didn’t have tips and nothing seemed to work right.

But, at Archery Outpost it was a different experience.  It matched my idolized version of using a traditional bow to shoot.

We all  had a good time. The equipment was well maintained. The instructor was helpful and worked well with the kids. Plus, it was a female instructor so my daughter felt empowered.  We took the Safety Class.  Archery Outpost offers a Safety Class Tuesday at 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm and Sunday at 1 pm and 3 pm.  The instructor goes over the basic equipment and safety. You then get to shoot in the indoor range with coaching from the instructor. Bows are selected with appropriate draw.  We were able to shoot for more than an hour.

We ended up getting some less expensive bows for home and set up a range on our property.  We have all used it several times in the weeks since taking the class.  In fact, I think I may acquire a more expensive bow for myself . . . .

Archery Outpost offers indoor shooting range rental with or without equipment and lessons. Also, they have birthday party packages.  There is an upstairs room for the birthday party (or other groups).


Kim Kardashian As An Earth Mama?

bigstock-A-beautiful-young-pregnant-wom-24168806Last night an article on Yahoo caught my eye – the title boldly asserted Kim Kardashian – Earth Mother with her new pregnancy. I snorted my drink onto my computer screen and almost fell out of my chair laughing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy from Kim and wish her the best. I am even happy for her if she is discovering a healthier lifestyle because she is pregnant. But doing a photo shoot with less make up does not make one an Earth Mother. Nor does reducing one’s Diet Coke intake make one an Earth Mother.

It actually might be great if Kim Kardashian were becoming an Earth Mother. She garners so much attention (whether you love her or hate her) that it could bring attention to some of the issues that so called Earth Mothers hold dear – whether the issue is climate change, energy issues, reducing lead exposure, safer chemicals in consumer products, fracking, GMOs, or whatever.

But Kim Kardashian’s Earth Mother experience seems just as fake as her reality TV life. I don’t think she is eliminating doing her nails or at least using a less toxic nail polish. I don’t think she is avoiding synthetic fragrance because of the possibility of hormone disrupting phthalates or carcinogenic compounds.  I don’t even think her comment about limited Diet Coke has anything at all to do with the artificial sweetener or the possibility of exposure to bisphenol A due to the lining of the aluminum can.

I also don’t think she is going to buy products for  the nursery that are safer than conventional products, whether it is formaldehyde free furniture or avoiding polyurethane foam pieces.  Do you think she is considering flame retardants? I don’t. And I don’t think she will look for safer baby products such as Earth Mama Angel Baby’s products.

Perhaps she means something more than a trendy label to improve her public image, but I honestly don’t think so. I don’t believe a Teflon-coated reality TV star enamored of modern conveniences (fake nails, fake tan, fake eyelashes, disposable clothing, disposable water bottles) can be an Earth Mother.

But it would be great if she proved me wrong.

Is “Being Green” The New Battle In The “Mommy Wars”?

Hot Trendy MamaI really hate the so-called “Mommy Wars.” I get it that every parent wants to think his or her way of parenting is best, and I get it that we wall make different choices (stay at home, work at home, or work outside of the home; stay with kids, nanny, daycare or child care; public or private school; soccer or not; fast food or not; whatever) but I don’t get criticizing somebody else for his or her parenting choice. We shouldn’t be fighting – we should be working together and celebrating our differences. (Okay, one caveat – you can criticize a parenting choice and take action if the choice is immediately harmful to child – such as leaving an infant in a hot car on a hot day).

I suppose it is hard to not criticize, because if somebody else’s choice is good, then it must be better than your choice, right? At least that is the thought process. And if your choice isn’t good (like working outside of the home and putting your kids in childcare), then it must be bad, and harmful to your kids. So then you are a bad parent. As a result, it is better to criticize the other parent’s choice as a preemptive strike because if you don’t, you will branded a bad parent.

Okay, ugh.

In any event, Clorox Green Works is launching a new ad campaign that, well, mocks eco fanatics for their “greenness.” Apparently, some survey found that women feel more pressure to be green (39%) than skinny (29%). So Green Works has come up with The Green Housewives who are parodies of eco green fanatics (all while shopping and consuming, which, is well, not very green but let’s set that aside for now). And, by the way, these Green Housewives don’t really know what they are talking about and their choices don’t seem particularly informed. Are they interested in being green to reduce energy consumption? Improve working conditions? Reduce exposure to toxic chemicals? Reduce plastic consumption? No, they are just eco fanatics spouting lots of buzzwords.

In any event, so now apparently we are pressuring one another to be a certain level of green and making one another feel guilty about our choices and their greenness or lack thereof. Will this be the new battle in the Mommy Wars?

I hope not. Certainly, peer pressure is a method to advance social change, and we need social change to improve. If social pressure can assist with reducing energy consumption, conserving natural resources, and improving health, safety and the environment, then, well, I am all for it. But that doesn’t mean I get to criticize somebody else’s choice that isn’t as green. It doesn’t have to be a war. I can simply lead by example without preaching.

I know that being green seems to lend itself to being “greener than thou” instead of educating, and it lends itself to media coverage that is fear mongering and a culture of denying oneself material goods. Unfortunately. Somehow we  need to change the dialogue so that being green is positive.

That being said, there still seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding that being green is more expensive. Being green seems to be a status symbol in certain circles – that you have a hybrid car, for example. But being green is not more expensive. That is really the myth that Clorox Green Works is selling.  Clorox Green Works is pushing, like all the cleaning companies do, the myth that you need several specialty cleaners to really get your house clean. And you don’t. You can clean your house with basic pantry staples that are LESS EXPENSIVE than buying any of the conventional cleaners or even the “greener” cleaners. Baking soda, vinegar, isopropyl alcohol, salt, lemons, hydrogen peroxide, cream of tarter – all LESS EXPENSIVE (significantly) than buying a glass cleaner, a counter cleaner, a tub & tile cleaner, a toilet bowl cleaner, etc.

Also, saving energy – less expensive. You will save money if you set your thermostat so as to reduce the amount of heat or air conditioning needed.

Granted, clothing and food items may be more expensive – but to be honest, being green isn’t about buying new stuff all the time, it is about making do with what you got. So you make do with your sheets, blankets, clothing, etc. If you do  need to replace and aren’t into buying recycled items, even the big box retailers have options for organic, fair trade, etc. items.

Food is probably the one place where it tends to be more expensive – if you are comparing to buying conventional goods to organic goods at a super market. Studies, however, show that many Americans eat out regularly – often convenience foods. Those convenience foods are expensive, and you can reduce your total food costs if you cook at home with organic over eating out. And we tend to by food in convenience packaging (single serve apple sauce, for example). Buying in bulk can significantly reduce food costs. Also, growing your own (even in containers if you are in an apartment) can be less expensive.

So let’s forget the battle of the green in the Mommy Wars. But if you want to know how easy it is to clean with baking soda, or to use rags instead of paper towels, or how I haven’t broken my glass bottle in 2 years, I’m happy to talk about.






Reflections on the Father of the Year

I know that I often get tunnel vision. I know I can think creatively and “outside of the box” when coming up with ideas and solutions at work. But, in everyday life so to speak, I tend to lose sight of the fact that lots of different options, responses and solutions exist for everyday problems, particularly parenting problems. And, in fact, taking the most conventional response isn’t usually the one that is going to teach my kids what I want to teach them.

Several weeks ago, an article about why Americans kids are so spoiled struck a chord ~ mostly because I realized that I had fallen into the trap of doing a lot of things myself because it was easier for me, ignoring the lesson that my kids were learning. While it is my desire for my kids to grow up to be happy, independent, RESOURCEFUL adults, I was teaching them the exact opposite by doing things that they were capable of doing just because it would be faster or easier if I tied their shoes or got their backpacks together or insert any task.  That article resulted in a dramatic shift in our household that continues to be played out  . . .

And today, something else came along to remind me that I shouldn’t get tunnel vision. That sometimes the unexpected response is the best response. An article about a dad who, when his son was faced with bullying because his son wanted to wear dresses to school, elected not to try to force his son to conform or to try to force the school to police the bullying or any of the other conventional solutions but instead, had his son’s by being different with his son. Showing his son and the world that his son’s choice was just fine, thank you.

So, I am going to take the lessons to heart from this Father of the Year. I am going to keep in mind the lessons I would like to teach and I am going to lead by action. And, of course, I’ll be different with you.


Back to School – Desktop Diffuse the Blahs! Salt

I use aromatherapy a lot around the house ~ to energize in the shower, to perk up my cleaning, to relax in the evening – but I never really thought about using it for back to school. I got an email from AuraCacia recommending just that and had a “D’oh” moment. Why not use aromatherapy for back to school? I keep an energizing spray at my desktop to revive myself in the afternoon (and pass on an afternoon snack) so why shouldn’t my kids benefit too?

So, I thought I would share AuraCacia’s recipe for Diffuse the Blahs! Salt.

You’ll need the following:


  • 2 tablespoons coarse grain sea salt
  • 15 drops bergamot oil
  • 5 drops peppermint oil
  • a tin (2 oz tin with lid)

It is that simple – just place the salt in the tin. Sprinkle with the oils. When needed, shake and inhale.

Now, if you don’t have a tin or sea salts, you can sprinkle the two oils on a natural fiber fabric square, and tuck in your child’s backpack. And, for the record, I tend to use and order my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs (see the box over on the right).

FTC Alleges “Your Baby Can Read!” Ads Deceptive And Files Suit

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed false advertising charges against the marketers of Your Baby Can Read! – a program that was widely touted in infomercials and on the Internet.  I remember the ads about the program, and also remembering wondering if I should be doing it for my kids just in case in actually worked . . . If you remember, the program uses videos, flash cards, and pop-up books that supposedly teach children as young as nine months old how to read.

The FTC’s press release indicates that the complaint charges Your Baby Can, LLC, its former CEO Hugh Penton Jr., and the product’s creator with false and deceptive advertising – namely that the program could teach your infant or toddler to read and that the program was supported with scientific studies .  Your Baby Can, LLC, and the former CEO have agreed to settle with the FTC.  The principal and product’s creator, Robert Titzer, Ph.D, has not settled, and he is also charged with  making deceptive expert endorsements.

The settlement is interesting – it prohibits the defendants from further use of the term “Your Baby Can Read.”  The settlement also imposes a $185 million judgment, which equals the company’s gross sales since January 2008.  However, since the company is in a dire financial situation, once Your Baby Can makes a payment of $500,000, the remainder of the judgment will be suspended. If it is later determined that the financial information the company gave the FTC was false, the full amount of the judgment will become due.  Also, the settlement order against Penton and Your Baby Can LLC prohibits them from misrepresenting the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any product or service for teaching reading or speech, or enhancing language ability, cognitive ability, school performance, or brain development.  They also are barred under the settlement from misrepresenting that scientific support exists for such assertions.

According to the complaint, the defendants sold the Your Baby Can Read! program to parents and grandparents of children aged three months to five years since at least January 2008, charging about $200 for each kit and taking in more than $185 million.

CPSC Votes To Commence Rulemaking For High Powered Magnets

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has voted 4 – 0 to commence rulemaking for high-powered magnet sets.  According to the CPSC’s press release, CPSC staff estimate that small, high powered magnet sets were associated with 1,700 emergency room-treated injuries between 2009 and 2011, with the majority of injuries (70%) have been to children 4 to 12 years of age.

Of course, many of these magnet sets are marketed as sculptures, puzzles, and stress relievers and are labeled not for use by children. You may recall that the CPSC recently sued the maker of the Buckyballs and Buckycube desk toys – which were definitely not marketed to kids.  However, CPSC staff believes these magnet sets have strong appeal to children and pose a potential for high-severity injuries.  The CPSC has issued warnings regarding the hazards associated with these high powered magnets.

If swallowed, these magnets can link together inside a child’s intestines and clamp onto body tissues, causing intestinal obstructions, perforations, sepsis and death. Internal damage from magnets can pose serious lifelong health effects.

The CPSC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking indicates that such magnet sets will be prohibited if the set contains more than one magnet that fits through the small parts choking hazard tube unless the flux index is less than 50, as determined by the method set forth in ASTM F963-11.  The proposed rule has a 75 day public comment period.

The CPSC is specifically soliciting comment on the risks posed by magnets in science and craft kits. While I do believe the products with unexpected hazards require appropriate regulation, the key is appropriate regulation. I’m not sure a complete ban, without appropriate exclusions, is appropriate. Certainly I believe that science kits should be able to have high powered magnets, as long as appropriate warnings are provided.  Go comment, please.

Red Vines Black Licorice Recalled: Elevated Levels of Lead

American Licorice Company has voluntarily recalled all of its 1 pound bags of black licorice with a “best by” date of February 14, 2013 following testing by California health officials which found elevated levels of lead.  The testing revelead that black licorice candy could have as much lead as 0.33 parts per million (ppm), resulting in a dose of up to 13.2 micrograms of lead per serving.

For reference, the California Department of Public Health states that the recommendation is that children under 6 years of age consume no more than 6.0 micrograms of lead per day, and the level for which a Proposition 65 warning is required is 0.5 micrograms per day for lead as a reproductive toxicant.

Lead is toxic. Mild lead poisoning is associated with hyperactivity, irritability, sleeplessness, lack of concentration, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Persistent neurological impairment can follow even mild episodes of lead poisoning. More information is available on this website and also at the  California Department of Public Health.

Consumers can return the bags to the retailer from which they were purchased for a full refund.

So far, no explanation for why this batch of candy had elevated levels of lead.  The company indicates that “[s]afety is the number one priority for [the] company.”

Kumon Blog Hop – Kumon Poetry Challenge in Celebration of Earth Day – Win a $25 Barnes & Noble Gift Card

If you read my blog, you’ll know I don’t do a lot of giveaways or contest. But, for St. Patrick’s Day, I had dinner with some friends I hadn’t seen for quite awhile (old day care friends), and both families were raving about Kumon, the world’s largest after-school academic enrichment program. We haven’t used Kumon, but the two families both talked about how much the program had helped their kids and also that the program encouraged good citizenship. The parents volunteered that the program really gave their kids great focus and confidence.

In any event, the following Monday, I received an email from a PR person representing Kumon asking me to participate in a blog hop to promote Kumon’s poetry contest in honor of Earth Day on Facebook. Well, after having two friends recommend the program, and wanting to be part of Earth Day (even though I’m quite cynical and grinchy about it), I said I would participate in the blog hop.

Why a blog hop? Well, the concept behind a blog hop is to introduce everybody to new bloggers and/or new ideas. Kumon has chosen some green bloggers and we are all talking a bit about Earth Day, favorite green tips and other green ideas. Yesterday, Katy from Non Toxic Kids posted a poem! (go Katy). Tomorrow’s blog hop is hosted by Sommer at Green and Clean Mom.

To be honest, I have a hard time getting excited about Earth Day because it seems that there is a lot of greenwashing. But this year, I’m trying because my kids are excited about Earth Day. We’re planning on participating in a local volunteer clean up this Saturday (official Earth Day). We’ve been talking about how we can reduce our use of plastic and recycle more. All year, we’ve been trying to do waste free lunches, and my kids seem to be finally getting why I give them foods from bulk containers into reusable individual containers instead of packing single serve foods. FINALLY! (And, plus, it is way cheaper.) Today in the car on the way home, we talked about whether people will become extince and what the Earthy will look like in 20  years or 50 years or 100 years.

Well, to celebrate Earth Day, Kumon is sponsoring a contest for our kids.  It is a Poetry Challenge in celebration of Earth Day. Kumon encourages students to be good citizens and stewards of the Earth, and Kumon is asking students to tell it how and why the students take care of the Earth, in a poem. The poem should be 200 words or fewer and should celebrate Earth Day.  The poem should be in one of four forms – haiku, limerick, acrostic or free form. Parents submit their child’s poem about nature through Facebook. Each child has a chance to win $500 and an all-expenses paid trip to New York City with a visit to Kumon North America. There will be 6 winners! Please read the contest details.

And,  you have a chance to win a $25 gift certificate (preferably in electronic form to reduce plastic) donated by Kumon. Just leave a comment on this post below and you’ll be entered to win. Winner will be chosen randomly on May 8, 2012 and notified via email (so make sure you leave your email when you comment).

Getting the Lead Out – Folk & Herbal Remedies

Healthy living often includes considering natural or herbal remedies for getting and/or staying well.  I’ve blogged before about how I have been growing and drying my own herbs for use in teas, tinctures, salves and other applications. However, several commonly used traditional and folk remedies have been found to contain lead.  Some are contaminated with lead from the manufacturing process or soils.  Some are made of lead or lead salts.  For example, greta is a traditional Mexican folk remedy commonly used to treat children’s stomach ailments.  But, greta can contain as much as 90% lead, and can poison children, instead of making them better.

Reports of children being poisoned by folk remedies are more common then you would think.  One story expressed a young mother’s grief and guilt over poisoning her two children and a niece with greta.  She gave it to them to help with stomach problems.  She is quoted as saying “[i]nstead of doing something good for them, I did them more harm.”  Luckily, the high levels of lead were detected a week later during a routine checkup.  The children have reportedly suffered no ill effects.

Traditional and folk remedies are the second most common source of lead poisoning in the United States.  The CDC estimates that traditional or folk remedies may account for as much as 30% of all childhood lead poisoning cases in the US.  But, it is suspected that many cases go undetected.  Many doctors don’t ask about alternative medicines, and most people don’t volunteer the information.  And only about 14% of children are tested for lead.

Many of these remedies are manufactured outside the US and purchased in ethnic grocery stores and neighborhood shops, or brought into the US by travelers.  These remedies are often cultural traditions, handed down by generations.  For example, ayurvedic remedies have been used in India for at least the last 2,000 years.  But, one survey of ayurvedic remedies sold in the Boston area found that 20% of them contained potentially harmful levels of lead, mercury and arsenic.

Many people think “my grandmother used it, so it must be okay.”  Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it safe.  The traditional or home remedies can cause serious cases of lead poisoning because the lead concentration is often very high and the medicine is intentionally swallowed.

So, since you can’t tell just by looking at a folk or herbal remedy whether it contains lead or another potentially harmful ingredient, do a little bit of research before taking a folk or herbal remedy. Following is a list of common herbal or folk remedies that have been found to contain harmful ingredients – but this list isn’t comprehensive.



Alternative or Folk Remedies and Cosmetics Found to Have Lead Present






Used to Treat





Al Murrah Colic, stomachache, diarrhea Saudi Arabia
Albayalde or albayaidle Vomiting, colic, apathy, lethargy Mexico,Central America
Alkohl (also known as kohl, surma or saoott) Umbilical stump remedy (also used as a cosmetic) Middle East,Africa,Asia Can contain up to 83% lead
An Kung Niu Huan Wan China
Anzroot Gastroenteritis Middle East
Ayurvedic remedies including Guglu (reports of 14,000 ppm lead), Sundari Kalp (pill, reports of up to 96,000 ppm lead), and Jambrulin (reports of 44,000 ppm lead)[iii] India
Azarcon (also known as rueda, liga, coral, Alarcon and Maria Luisa) Empacho, vomiting, diarrhea 95% lead
Ba Bow Sen (also known as Ba Baw San or Ba Baw Sen) Colic, hyperactivity, nightmares and to detoxify “fetus poisoning” China
Bal Chamcha Liver problems, digestion, teething, milk intolerance, irregular stools, bloating, colic, poor sleep, poor dentition, myalgia India
Bal Jivan Baby tonic India
Bala Goli (also known as Fita) Stomachache, often dissolved in gripe water Asia,India
Bala Guta Children’s tonic India
Bala Sogathi Improve growth, teething, coug, cold, fever, diarrhea India
Balguti Kesaria For children and infants India
Bao Ning Dan Acne, pain, removing toxins China
Bezoar Sedative Pills China
Bint al zahab (also known as  bint or bent) Diarrhea, colic, constipation and general neonatal uses Saudi Arabia,OmanandIndia
Bint Dahab Saudi Arabia
Bokhoor (and noqd) Calming Kuwait
Cebagin Teething powder Middle East
Chuifong tokuwan Hong Kong
Cordyceps Hypertension, diabetes, bleeding China
Deshi Dewa Fertility Asia,India
Emperor’s Tea Pill Maintain body’s natural balance China
Farouk Teething powder Saudi Arabia
Ghazard (also known as Ghasard or Qhasard) Digestion, relieve constipation in babies Asia,India
Greta Digestive problems Mexico 97% lead
Hai Ge Fen China Powder added to tea
Hepatico Extract Healthy liver and promote regularity China
Jeu Wo Dan Cast dressing China
Jim Bu Huan Pain China
Kandu Stomachache Asian,India Red powder
Koo Sar (or Koo Soo) Pills Menstrual cramps China Lead believed to be present in red dye
Kohl (also known as Alkohl) Cosmetic, skin infections
Kushta Diseases of the heart, brain, liver, and stomach, aphrodisiac India,Pakistan
Litargirio Deodorant, foot fungicide, burns, wound healing Dominican Republic Approx. 80% lead
Lu Shen Wan China
Mahayogaraj gugullu High blood pressure India
Mahalakshmi Vilas Ras with gold Cold related symptoms, blood deficiency, wound healing, asthma India
Navratna Rasa General debility, rickets, calcium deficiency India
Ng Chung Brand Tik Dak Win China
Pay-loo-ah Rash, fever Southeast Asia
PoYing Tan Minor ailments China
Qing Fen Cast dressing, pain China
Santrinj Teething remedy Saudi Arabia 98% lead
Sundari Kalp Menstrual health India
Surma Teething powder India
Swarna Mahayograj Guggula with gold Rheumatism, gas, menstrual cycles, progesterone deficiency, mental disorders, fertility, menopause India
Tibetan herbal vitamin Strengthen brain (remedy for mental retardation) India
White Peony Scar Repairing Pills Scar Hong Kong
Zhui Feng Tou Gu Wan Bone ailments, joint pain, numbness China


Lead in Folk Remedies:  Smart Mama’s Simple Steps To Reduce Exposure

Skip the remedy.  If you don’t know whether it is safe or no, skip the remedy.  I understand that many of these remedies have been used for generations.  But, they can contain high levels of lead.  If you don’t know whether they are safe or not, then skip them.

Discuss with caregivers.  Discuss medications and remedies with all caregivers, including remedies.  Make sure your caregivers, including your relatives, do not provide any medical care, including home remedies, without checking with you.