Wednesday, January 28, 2009


The following blog is from a "blog-in" to get the word out about the CPSIA. It's taken from: Please read and pass it on!

As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.

The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too.

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students:
Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.

To the Avid Reader:
Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.
Article from the American Library Association

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:
Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:
Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper:
Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:
Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector:
Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”

To the American Economy:
Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy:
Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses.

If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law

Did you know? If this upsets or alarms you, please react.

Global Warming: Why Raffi Needs to Chill

It’s been really trendy to talk about global warming and caring for the environment for the past few decades (maybe it’s more than just a trend now). I remember growing up with this music video they showed incessantly on PBS. The lyrics were something like, “One world…We’ve only got…One world. We’ve got to learn to treat our one world like a friend.” The song was led by Raffi or a Raffi wanna-be who was accompanied by children of all races dancing around on this big cartoon earth. I don’t know why this image has stuck with me for so long. Maybe it was just the catchiness of the song. Maybe it was the Utopian, euphoric feelings it evoked then and now; this sense that if we all learn to reduce, reuse, recycle and treat each other well that people, plants and animals will all burst into song and dance in unison through verdant, chartreuse fields with fruit-filled trees swaying in time to the rhythm of our feet shuffling on the fertile ground. This is still an image I cradle in my memory. It brings me back to a time when I lived on a farm, breathed fresh country air, milked goats, collected chicken and duck eggs, picked berries, and slept outside; it was a time when I was wild and free. Sitting here in front of my computer screen, that life seems so far away. My feet are so used to sneakers and dress shoes that tread on carpet, concrete and wood that they’ve forgotten the joy of running barefoot through a yard of dew-soaked grass, squishing mud through my toes and climbing a tree to watch the sunrise. As real as those memories are, I gave up watching Raffi’s music video a long time ago (I can’t even find it on youtube!).

Just recently the National Academy of Sciences released the findings of a study they’ve conducted on global warming. Their conclusion? Global warming is irreversible. No matter what we do, the effects of pollution and emissions will continue to heat the earth for the next 1,000 years. Anyone else feeling a little apocalyptic? That said, the lady who authored the study results said in a recent NPR interview that the best thing we can do is still to reduce waste now. As I see it, for some people this will be akin to a patient who found out he was still going to die after thinking that all the things he was doing to be healthier would eventually cure his disease. At least he might be able to live a little longer if he lays off the potato chips and sugary soda pop. No matter what political persuasion you are, I think the arguments in favor of global warming are pretty convincing. I also think it’s fairly obvious that the wasteful way us more industrialized nations have been living hasn’t had a good effect on the environment. Even if living more responsibly doesn’t do a darn thing to slow or reverse the direction of the current global trend, I still think it’s a good idea.

My wife just wrote about our decision to use cloth diapers. I have to admit that cost was and still is the number one reason we started and are still going on this thing. I like it when the cheapest thing happens to be the most responsible, least wasteful way to do things. However, that’s rarely the case anymore. Generally, the cheaper the sneakers, the more likely they were manufactured in a sweatshop or produced with man-made materials from some emission-heavy factory. What happened to the profession of cobbler? The last time I took my shoes in to be repaired was at the Birkenstock store, and it made me feel like a hippie. This is just one example of the many things we buy, only to use for a short period of time and then discard. I can think of a lot of others.

In a podcast I listened to recently, Clark Carlton discussed how communion bread and wine have a lot to say about who we are as people. Pastors and priests don’t offer up wheat kernels and grapes. They bring things that show our cooperation with what we’ve been given by God. I have a patch of land in the back of my house that’s aching for vegetables and herbs to be planted in it. I have tools and cinder blocks. I have paper and pens and pencils. I have a drum set and sticks and other instruments. I have uncooked rice, lentils, pintos, and many canned and fresh foods lying dormant in the kitchen. All these things are things about which I would like to say, as the Orthodox liturgy says, “Thine own of Thine own we offer unto Thee.” For this to happen my conclusion (again!) is personal responsibility (this might be my mantra for rest of the year). However, with snow and ice on the ground, and lethargy still keeping me congealed, what can I do now by grace to start moving? Maybe I should get back to work.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why We Use Cloth

I remember being asked at one of my baby showers if I was using disposable or cloth diapers and saying, "Are you crazy? Cloth? Ew, gross!". It's funny remembering that moment, because now that we use cloth, I wouldn't even dream of going back. Now when I hear disposables I think, "Ew!" I wish I had researched cloth earlier (like before she was born) because we didn't start using them till she was about 6 months old. I would estimate that we have spent about $250 on diapers, covers and wipes. Ok, with the two new additions (goodmamas) maybe that's more like $300. We use primarily prefolds, but have a few pockets and now a couple of fitteds. Most of you are close friends and already know why we chose this route. But for others, here are the reasons we use cloth diapers:

1. Cost
Even if we were to switch to all pocket diapers, which cost about $15-20 per diaper, we would still save money in the long run. Some research says that the average parent spends $3000 on disposable diapers from birth to potty training. $3000!! This handy little calculator helps you figure out how much money you will save if you switch to cloth
This savings will increase if you use the diapers for more than one child (which we will do). Cloth diapers also have resale value, so if we have any left that aren't completely worn out we can sell them! I can't tell you how good it feels when I change a diaper to know that I'm not literally throwing money away.

2. Health and Comfort
There are many chemicals in disposable diapers. It may not seem like a big deal, but think about the fact that your baby is sitting in these chemicals 24 hours a day for 3 or so years of their life (depending on when they potty train). Azalia had a lot of diaper rash issues when she was in disposables. Those rashes are virtually non-existent in cloth. She will get the occasional rash, but it clears up so much faster in cloth. Plus, have you felt a disposable diaper? They are not soft by any means. They are lined in plastic. But cotton, bamboo velour, fleece, now that's soft.

3. Environment
There is much debate on both sides of this issue. But from my research it appears to me that cloth is definitely kinder to our beautiful earth than disposable. We throw 18 billion disposable diapers into landfills each year. Each year. It's estimated that disposable diapers take as long as 500 years to decompose. Some may argue that you waste water by washing diapers over and over. However, the amount of water used to wash diapers is equal to the amount of water an adult or toliet-trained child would use flushing the toliet 5 to 6 times a day. I almost get giddy when I realize how much less waste my family is putting into landfills because of this. Using cloth and recycling has literally cut our trash amount 75%. I kidd you not.

4. Cuteness!
Last, but certainly not least is the cute factor. This is pretty self-explanatory, but indulge me. Most disposable diapers are plain, white, plastic and covered in advertising aimed at getting your children to buy (or get you to buy) more muppets or blue's clues related merchandise. Cloth on the other hand is colorful and so adorable. Also, no advertising! Just a quick google search on cloth diapers will bring up loads of adorable colors and patterns. My recent favorite are goodmamas (

So those are just a few reasons why we use cloth. I love it. Joe changes the diapers too. Washing them isn't any more trouble than washing your clothes. Poopy diapers are fun, but luckily I have a handyman for a husband. He installed a really neat diaper sprayer by the toliet so I can spray it all away. Have questions or want to know more? Ask me or go to these sites for more information:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

'Tis a Gift to Be Simple...

Anyone who watched the Inauguration yesterday probably caught all or a little of the tune played by Yo Yo Ma, Itzak Perlman, and company. It was a rendition of an old Shaker dance song from 1848 originally entitled Simple Gifts. There was only one verse to said song (fitting for a song about simplicity), that goes like so,

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd,

To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

I remember this song from a Utopian Communities class I took in college, or maybe it was a music appreciation class. Either way, the familiarity of the tune, which is about as repetitive as that Lamb Chop's Play-Along song, struck me. I began to think about why such a piece was chosen for the Inauguration of Barack Obama. Is it because we're going to have to become a more communal, socialistic country to make it through these hard times? Is it just the idea of living off of less and working more that they were trying to get across? Was it just some pretty music?

In honesty, I admire the Amish, Quaker, and Shaker communities. I think, if I remember correctly, they are the 3 communal experiments that survived the longest, with the final Shaker member passing away in 1992 and the other two still surviving. They might be considered cults by some, but their commitment to simplicity, their denial of conventional modern-day wisdom, is bold and unflinching. How many people were watching in October 2006 as the Amish lived out the deepest love and forgiveness by not only refusing to retaliate, but reaching out to the families of their daughters' murderers. Their commitment to nonviolence is commendable, even if it seems foolish at times. The Quakers share the same commitment to non-retaliation, simplicity and peace. I don't think our whole country should up and embrace the ideals of these Utopian communities, but we have much to learn from them.

The idea I hope this musical piece is trying to get across is the second I listed. That of living off of less and working more. I have a lot of loan/credit card debt as I'm sure some of you do. Unfortunately, this keeps me from being able to give generously and live freely. My refusal to live simply for a while has trapped and caged me. I believe our country's addiction to borrowing and spending are what caused this economic problem in the first place. It's time to start "living simply so that others may simply live". To get out of debt and start over. To have friends and enemies over for supper. To stop borrowing and start producing: making art, building things, planting seeds, and living responsibly. But I don't need a president to do those things. I need a new me.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Manners or How My Baby is Making Me a Better Person

Azalia has begun eating with a fork and spoon during mealtimes. This is a pretty big accomplishment. It can be messy, but it is so good for her development to be able to do this on her own. I have to load up the fork for her with food, she's not quite able to do that on her own yet. Today she would not give the fork back to me unless I did the sign for "please". I've been saying and signing please a lot more with her recently and I feel like she's starting to understand what that means. It might be a while before she starts using "please" in her sign vocabulary (she currently uses milk, more, cereal and all done) but at least she's getting the concept of it.

Another thing I've observed is her eagerness to clean up. When she spills her milk on the table or the floor I usually come around with a towel or napkin to wipe it up. She now tries to do this before I get there. With her tiny little baby hands she wipes the floor to clean up her mess. I know that she learned this by watching me. It amazes me how much she understands or imitates just from observing Joe and I.

Knowing this, I feel a lot of pressure on being the kind of woman I would like her to be. I want her to be strong, independent, gentle, flexible, loving, compassionate, and I want her to love her Lord Jesus Christ with all her heart, soul, mind and strength. Bishop Irenaius writes in "On the Upbriging of Children",

"We know that never does human nature develop so quickly and in so many ways as in these first years of childhood. The bodily development advances quickly and steadily, and the spiritual even more so. The child begins to speak, forms his first concrete ideas, learns to think, to reflect. His will grows stronger and gradually begins to work independently. His mind is enriched by his surroundings, and from these he apprehends the idea of God. He begins to ponder the purpose of life and learns to distinguish good from evil. His conscience awakens, love and hatred begin to work within him, the feelings of honor and shame appear."

There is a great emphasis placed on the first several months of a baby's life. Rolling over, sitting up, walking, first words are all important milestones and help the parent to know that the child is developing physically and mentally on track. But those first months, years in a child's life are full of so much more. Before a baby speaks, the will see the love (or lack of) between their parents. I've read in another parenting book that children, particularly girls, will form their views of sex from their parents. Azalia will form her views of God, family and the world through her observations. Since we, her parents, are the ones who spend the most time with her, that places a pretty heavy burden on us. If I want Azalia to to be gentle, I must be gentle with her, with my husband and with others. If I want her to be generous and compassionate, I must also be these things. If I want her to say "please", I must also say "please". And not just with her. She watches me at the store, at church and in the car while I'm driving. I know that I won't be perfect and I'm sure she'll see me impatient or angry. But thinking about the kind of woman I want my daughter to be makes me want to be a better woman.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Gaza Strip: But You Don't Have to Take My Word for It

Let’s imagine for a second that I actually know something about what has been going on in the Middle East.

Okay, now, let’s say I’m a surgeon who has received a call in the middle of the night. A man needs an emergency operation. However, it just so happens that I loaned out all my instruments to another doctor yesterday evening and the operation that needs to be done is brain surgery, while I’m only a heart surgeon.

This is my analogy for why the US is being so quiet about the Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza. I don’t think our silence is a sign of our complicity; I think it is a symptom of our over-commitment in other places and our ineptitude when it comes to dealing with terrorist groups. Especially when those terrorist groups attack “democratic” states like Israel that have allied themselves with the west and are doing all they can to gain our approval. Who can argue that what Israel has done is not a microcosm of what the US has done in Iraq since 9-11? This is also the same argument Russia used when it entered Ossetia and wreaked its havoc a few months ago: “We’re just doing what we learned from the United States”. Monkey see, monkey do, right? Of course, the situation in Gaza is more complicated because both groups believe God has promised them this strip of land. However, Khalid Mi’shal, the head of Hamas’ political bureau said in 2006,

Our message to the Israelis is this: we do not fight you because you belong to a certain faith or culture. Jews have lived in the Muslim world for 13 centuries in peace and harmony; they are in our religion "the people of the book" who have a covenant from God and His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be respected and protected. Our conflict with you is not religious but political. We have no problem with Jews who have not attacked us - our problem is with those who came to our land, imposed themselves on us by force, destroyed our society and banished our people.

I don’t think the tension that now exists has become more religious and less political than it was when Mi’shal uttered these words, no matter how much the word “ji’had” gets thrown around. This is just rhetoric used in pep talks to pump up the troops and in propagandist videos by Bin Laden. What Israel and Palestine really want is a bigger government and more land. In utter mimicry of the United States, Israel has just simply printed up some more shekels to fund their “war on terror”.

A cease fire is a good idea, but it doesn’t solve the perpetual problem both of these states have living next to each other. A recent article I read by Markus Bergstrom suggested that both states be dissolved. “[I]t is vital for the Zionist movement to realize that the idea of an Israeli land does not equate to, nor require, an Israeli state.” The author suggests this is true for Palestinian nationalists as well.

As I listened to the news this morning, recordings of gunfire and explosions pierced through my headphones. As of this morning, only 13 Israelis (10 soldiers and 3 civilians) have been killed as a result of the fighting. This is in contrast to the 1,055 Palestinian lives that have been lost; 670 of them have been civilians. Lord, have mercy.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Commitment II

It's strange my husband choose to write about commitment in his first post, because it's been on my mind also. After we signed the commitment to write in this blog once a week I at once thought of all the mental commitments, promises or resolutions I make, yet don't follow through on. I tend to dream about all the new things I want to learn, or old things I'd like to remember how to do again. I begin new adventures in crocheting, sewing, learning the accordion, only to lose steam and let the instruments sit silent for months at a time. Then, I'll look at the unfinished amigurimi doll or the inch-thick dust on my flute and feel guilty. "I'm sorry I've neglected you for so long," I say, "I promise, I won't do this again. I won't let a month pass by before I pick you up and play with you". I then, one month, two, three will pass before I feel I have the motivation to play, to sew, to create. I feel this happening again with the new (new to us) behomouth of a piano sitting in our living room. I played piano for seven or eight years growing up. I haven't played a real piece since I graduated high school. I printed off some sheet music yesterday and began playing the instrument I loved and cherished in my earlier years. Some things came back to me, others long forgotten and requiring a refresher course. I made a commitment to myself to play at least 3 times a week. With a busy busy toddler and a house to manage, I believe this is a realistic goal. However, I have a feeling the keys will soon begin to collect dust and the piano will be nothing more than furniture in our house. I don't want this to happen, but I know myself.

I've identified one underlying reason for this neglect for all things I begin to learn or create. I believe the reason is fear. I'm afraid that I won't be able to learn how to play the accordian. I'm afraid that the amigurumi bunny will look more like an octopus than a bunny. I'm afraid I will never be the talented pianist I once was. I'm afraid to write about my fears, thoughts and more. But here I am, along with my husband, making a commitment to write once a week in this blog. I will do my best.

Is there such a thing as virtual dust?


“I, the undersigned, do hereby commit to writing in the aforementioned blog a minimum of once a week.”

My wife and I signed a “legal, binding” document last night. It wasn’t the first, it won’t be the last. The difference was that yesterday’s contract was an agreement we made for ourselves, by ourselves. We both decided to start this blog, and be consistent about writing in it. Nothing is off limits. World news, politics, sports, music, fears, joys, failures, successes…For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, I will write in this blog.

Our marriage is a lasting motif for the unreasoning, unyielding love of God. Though pale in comparison, this commitment shines like fire reflecting off of a coin dropped in the grass or a window on a house nearby. We strive to be like that fire: blazing, eternal, and unrelenting until all is pure. But how can a reflective surface be made to burn like fire? It must get nearer to that fire, and jump inside it, and stay there. It must commit itself to the pressure, pain and pleasure that fire will place upon its smooth, cool veneer. It may melt. It may be lost forever, but real loss is better than false safety.

We must start over, again and again, day after day. I’m bad at that. I would carry on a grudge for weeks, months, years if my religion allowed it. I would eat the same thing every day, for every meal, and wear the same clothes every day, and take the same route to work every day, and…well, I would never change, never be transformed. This blog is our testament; our attempt at recording life as it whizzes by at the speed of light, hopefully finding meaning and learning how to be faithful to what we believe and respond in relevant ways to the people, places and things we love. This is for you, this is for us. Come on in.